On a normal day, Kootenai Humane Society houses maybe 20 dogs and several cats.
On Wednesday, it had more than 80 dogs packed into its facility after local authorities stumbled across animal hoarding at an abandoned house in Kellogg on Monday afternoon.
Debby Jeffries, the humane society’s executive director, said she had never seen such a hoarding case. On Monday, she got a call from pet rescuers at Shoshone Pet Rescue telling her they found at least 30 dogs in one house.
“Then they started finding more, and she said, ‘Oh, by the way, there are 64 dogs.’ I said, ‘There are how many?’ ” Jeffries said. “I think my jaw dropped on the desk.”
It turned out there were more than that. Some had hidden in the floorboards and walls.
The final total: 85 dogs and nine cats.
Pet rescuers and local police found several puppies between five and eight weeks old. They found five pregnant dogs, one of which gave birth to a trio of pups at KHS soon after her arrival.
KHS got most of the dogs, including the pregnant adults and four of the cats. Kellogg Veterinary Clinic took in eight adult dogs and five puppies, and some went to foster parents.
One dog was euthanized at the clinic and one of the original 85 had been found dead on the property, ending in 83 dogs total.
“As far as I’m concerned, these dogs were in the best shape for the conditions they were in,” Jeffries said.
The dogs were also small and loud, leaving Jeffries baffled as to how no one heard them.
Kellogg Police Sgt. Paul Twidt said the case also stumped him. Last Tuesday, Twidt went to the house on a civil standby call, as requested by the landlord to solve a dispute with his renter.
Though he never went inside, Twidt said he could not understand how he heard no animal noises.
“I talked to basically all of the neighbors, and they all said, ‘Not only did we not know there were 80 dogs, we didn’t know there was one dog,’ ” Twidt said.
As he builds an animal cruelty case against the dog owner, Twidt said he believes there was probably a large basement where the owner kept the dogs.
Though the dogs seemed nourished, Twidt said the fact the owner abandoned the animals is enough for them to pursue several counts of animal cruelty.
The society was happy to take them, said Vicky Nelson, KHS development director, but it did strain resources.
KHS is funded by community donations, and Nelson said the number of dogs has put pressure on their staff and medical equipment.
“To see these little faces, yes, it’s difficult. It’s strenuous and not something I would want to do every day, but it is so worth it,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the lack of space in their current facility means they’ve had to stack boxes of dog food outdoors as they attempt to bathe, feed, process and vaccinate the new arrivals.
The humane society has another task ahead of them – as of Wednesday, more than 250 adoption applications were submitted. Normally, about three applications come in for one dog, allowing the staff to evaluate each one on a case-by-case basis. This time , Jeffries said, that won’t be possible.
KHS is still working on the dogs, but Jeffries said they will soon open the adoption process in a general meet-and-greet at the facility.
“We had to close the application. Otherwise, there would have been a lot of disappointed people,” Jeffries said. “What I will tell people: You’ve got to remember you need a lot of patience with these dogs because in the last year, they’ve been in a house. They weren’t on grass. They didn’t go outside. When they had to go, they went wherever in the house. And if you’re not ready for that, then this is not the dog for you.”
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