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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Malnourished huskies found abandoned across Bonner County

Jan. 20, 2023 Updated Fri., Jan. 20, 2023 at 10:18 p.m.

Over a dozen neglected huskies were found wandering across Bonner and neighboring Idaho counties this week.

The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office is investigating “numerous ‘husky’ type dogs” that appear to have been abandoned in poor health. The sheriff’s office has identified a suspect and will seek criminal charges when the investigation is finished, a news release said.

Most of the dogs are at shelters, while some are being cared for by private citizens.

Nine dogs are under the care of Better Together Animal Shelter Alliance in Ponderay, where they are receiving treatment for gastrointestinal issues and parasites.

The shelter’s spokesperson, Andrea Nagel, said some dogs are sicker than others. All appear to be huskies or husky mixes.

Devin Laundrie, the shelter’s operations director, said Friday the dogs are showing signs of improvement.

“We have a treatment plan and everyone seems to be on the uphill swing,” Laundrie said. “This is with the exception of one dog. Sugar, who was the first dog we received, is in stable condition but will have a long road ahead of her. We believe she was a week to days away from dying based on her condition when she arrived.”

The shelter is urging anyone who may have one of these dogs at home to contact the shelter so they can receive the care they need.

“They are welcome to continue to keep the dogs at home, but they need to be evaluated for similar infections,” said Mandy Evans, the shelter’s executive director.

The shelter expects to treat 15-30 dogs, Evans said.

The sheriff’s office did not disclose how many dogs were found or how many may still be on the loose. The sheriff requests anyone who finds any of the dogs contact Bonner County dispatch so they can be documented.

“For investigative and potential prosecutorial reasons, it is imperative that we be made aware of any other dogs of this nature that have been located and may be being cared for by citizens,” the news release said. “We are not seizing the dogs; however, we do need to photograph the dogs and document contact information for whoever is caring for the dogs.”

The sheriff is also seeking information from anyone who may have witnessed a person or vehicle “dumping” these dogs.

As the dogs recover, they will move into foster homes in the coming weeks. Better Together is maintaining a list of people interested in adopting. The shelter will continue to give the dogs medical support.

For those wanting to help in other ways, the shelter is accepting food and supplies from donation bins at stores in the Sandpoint and Ponderay area. Two generous families agreed to match up to $10,000 in an online fundraiser through the shelter’s website.

“We are so thankful for the outpouring of support,” Nagel said.

Kootenai County Humane Society is caring for three of the dogs, and a few others went to shelters in Spokane.

On social media, people reported small groups of stray huskies from as far apart as Newport, Washington, to Worley, Idaho. There were numerous sightings in Spirit Lake.

People posted photos and videos on missing pet groups.

Dan Hanks, a board member of the Inland Empire Sled Dog Association in Priest Lake, said it is speculation whether the dogs were dropped off at various locations or wandered across the region themselves, but noted that huskies are capable of traveling such distances. Even in poor health, they can easily walk 30 to 50 miles in a day, he said.

Cathy Sparks, who runs the nonprofit Northwest Snowdog Rescue in Deer Park, said she has never seen anything of this scale in her 25 years of working to rehome huskies.

She said there is a trend among backyard breeders of overbreeding huskies because of their increased popularity.

“They think it is a quick way to make a buck,” she said.

Unfortunately, many don’t understand the unique needs of huskies, who need a lot of food and exercise.

In general, the number of huskies that need new homes is overwhelming, Sparks said.

Individuals and shelters contact her on a near-daily basis.

Sparks said that the dogs found around Bonner County appear to her to be sled racing dogs. With proper care, she said they could make good pets.

“They are sweet dogs,” she said.

“We have found that dogs from sled dog kennels can successfully transition to a wide range of homes, even with their need for lots of exercise,” Hanks said.

The sled dog association has been in close contact with the shelters and investigators, and the group has offered to mentor anyone who adopts one of the huskies.

“We are trying to do what we can to support the dogs, because we have a lot of knowledge about them,” Hanks said. “We’re really open to helping in that process in any way.”

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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