Volunteers and staff from the Thompson River Animal Care Shelter rescued 30 dogs from an alleged puppy mill operation in Plains on Sunday.
Wanda Thorpe, the founder of the nonprofit Thompson Falls shelter, said it has been contacted over the years by concerned residents about a Labrador breeding operation in Plains. At that time, Thorpe said she didn't feel there was much that they could do, even though the complaints included poor treatment of the animals and that the woman had "dumped dogs in the woods" when they had not been bought by owners.
The shelter had also not been able to document proof of the alleged abuse to be able to file a complaint with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Two months ago, TRACS was informed that the woman's property was going to be foreclosed on in the middle of December. The shelter began to make plans to take in some of the dogs.
"Then on Saturday morning, she loaded up a van and left," Thorpe said.
The dogs the woman left behind had been locked inside a barn and in the house and back yard of the residence. She contacted the sheriff's office, and together went to the home on a rescue mission on Sunday afternoon. In all, 30 Labradors were recovered, 15 adults and 15 puppies, most of them black labs.
Some of the animals were frightened and the team that showed up had to use catch poles to get them into carriers for transport. The puppies and their mothers were taken to Havens Stables where they will be fostered for the next two weeks. Most of the rest went to TRACS.
The animals were by and large in pretty good condition, Thorpe said, with some minor health conditions as well as having been deprived of food and water.
Thorpe said the animals will be put up for adoption after they pass medical inspections. In the mean time, she said that TRACS could use donations to help them to care for this large influx of animals.
Sanders County Sheriff's Office deputy April Phillips said all of the animals were recovered safely and that TRACS is now conducting routine health and safety checks on all of them.
"As far as the sheriff's office goes, I was there and helped get the animals and recover them into TRACS' care," she said. "All of the TRACS staff that was there were excellent, helpful, and everything went so smoothly."
The incident remains under investigation, and Phillips said once all of the evidence has been gathered a report will be sent to the Sanders County Attorney's Office to decide if charges will be filed.