The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley and the Idaho Humane Society were called to a home in Shoshone last week to rescue dozens of free-roaming dogs, cats and horses that were surrendered by the owner.
Brooke Bonner, director of development and communications for the Hailey-area shelter, said that while the owner had found homes for the cats and horses by the time staff arrived at the home on Tuesday, she was left with 18 dogs that she had rescued over the years.
"She really was trying to take care of them," Bonner said, adding that none of the dogs showed signs of abuse from their latest owner. "She was doing her best."
According to a shelter news release, the woman said the dogs had been abandoned near her rural home over the past several years, and she had taken them in. Recent financial struggles—including the loss of her home—and medical issues made it impossible for her to continue taking care of the animals.
Bonner said the owner called the shelter herself and offered the dogs up for surrender.
"We were really grateful to her for calling," she said. "There's no shelter in Shoshone, so it's not like she could have just taken them somewhere. I don't know why she picked us, except we have a great reputation for adopting dogs out."
Nadia Novik, the shelter's operations manager, and Hillary Hayward, trainer and temperament evaluator, arrived at the home to find the animals roaming free without food or housing, with water buckets that had been frozen solid.
The shelter took in five of the dogs, some of which have special needs or medical issues. Rueddy, a pug that had been blind since birth, has already been adopted, and a senior black lab with a tumor roughly the size of a baseball on her leg has since had the tumor removed by shelter veterinary staff.
The Idaho Humane Society of Boise took the remaining 13 dogs, though Communications and Outreach Coordinator Hannah Parpart said two had to be euthanized.
"The dogs were mostly in decent physical condition," Parpart said. "[But] there were some of them that were in rougher condition, mostly due to age."
One dog had a large cancerous mass in her mouth, and another could barely walk due to hip problems and age. Both dogs needed to be put down, Parpart said. However, she said, the other dogs seem to be in more need of socialization and attention rather than medical help.
"The other dogs were scared, not used to a lot of handling," she said. "There were definite signs of neglect or inexperience."
She said few of the dogs walk easily on leashes.
But Parpart also emphasized that the owner had not been abusing the dogs. In fact, she said many came with extensive veterinary records, though they peter out as the owner became unable to take the animals in for medical examinations.
"At some point, she ran out of resources," Parpart said. "The owner knew that she was in over her head and knew she needed help. When someone reaches out like that, they are trying to make sure things don't get worse."
Bonner said the dogs taken by the shelter were specially chosen according to the more "highly adoptable" types of dogs in the Wood River Valley.
"We tend to do better with medium-sized breeds," she said, such as lab crosses and cattle dog crosses. "People up here like dogs for an active lifestyle."
Two remaining lab crosses will be spayed and put up for adoption, and the lab mix that had a tumor removed will be available as well. An English setter cross has already found a permanent home. Bonner said all dogs are micro-chipped and will undergo a series of temperament tests meant to ensure that they will be safe in a home and safe for the community.
Parpart said her shelter has seven of the dogs remaining. All are adults and include a Catahoula leopard dog, an Airedale terrier, a Jack Russell terrier and a Rottweiler.
Bonner said this is one of the shelter's larger rescues, and the largest since the Hailey Police Department seized 17 dogs from a home in Hailey last September. Six of those animals were transferred to the Idaho Humane Society, four were euthanized due to health or temperament issues and the remaining seven were adopted.
Bonner said the shelter has one large rescue like these two about once a year, depending on circumstances.
"There's no predicting it," she said, "[but] there's always something. We even took dogs from Katrina when that happened."
For more information on the remaining dogs, contact the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley at 788-4351 or the Idaho Human Society at 208-342-3508.
Katherine Wutz: firstname.lastname@example.org