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Sue Neff has dealt with shoplifting at her store, Neff's Animal Specialties, for years, but what happened about two weeks ago was a first for her.

Someone broke the lock on a donation box for Basset Rescue of Montana and took all of the money inside.

While Neff said it wasn't a large amount - probably less than $20 - there have been times in the past when the box has contained much more.

"One time I called Leslie (Ames) and asked her to come and get the money out," Neff said, saying it was easy to see through the Plexiglas doghouse that there was possibly as much as $400 inside.

Ames is president and shelter manager for the rescue organization headquartered in Frenchtown. Money from donation boxes helps the shelter provide items such as medicine, supplies and quality food.

Ames said the organization operates the only breed-specific rescue shelter in Montana and takes animals from throughout the state as well as parts of North and South Dakota and Idaho.

Neff has allowed Basset Rescue to have the box on her checkout counter for about a year. She said another box, for the Humane Society, sits right behind the other one but wasn't touched.

Another Neff's employee noticed that the lock had been picked when he arrived to open the store. Neff said it's possible someone jimmied the lock late the day before when she was away from the counter helping a customer and she simply didn't notice it.

Other doghouse containers, made from wood by a Frenchtown volunteer and much harder to get into, are rotated through various area business locations. But Ames said nothing like this has ever happened before.

The Plexiglas container has been in circulation for about three years. Ames and Neff are keeping a better eye on it these days.

"What kind of person steals from a donation box? Shame on you," Ames quoted Donna Owens, founder and vice president of Basset Rescue, as saying.

Reporter Bill Schwanke can be reached at 523-0493 or at


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