Public rallies to help rescued dogs at Mat-Su shelter

SCRAMBLING: Shelter treats sick pups, seeks supplies and homes.

January 12, 2011 

Pet lovers donated $6,000 as of Wednesday afternoon to a fund created to care for scores of skinny huskies at the Matanuska-Susitna Borough animal shelter, organizers said.

Troopers seized the dogs from a breeder in the Montana Creek area of the Susitna Valley earlier this week. More than 20 were found dead, troopers said. One has since been euthanized by the shelter.

Alaskans responded with a crush of donations as images of the starving dogs circled the state.

"Dog ownership in Alaska is so high that most people can relate to seeing dogs that are not in good condition and not being taken care of well," said Linda Henning of Knik, who publishes Alaska Dog News and co-created a donation fund for the animals at Wells Fargo.

Henning expects the money to cover shortfalls at the Valley shelter as officials scramble to medicate and house huskies taken Monday from the homestead of Frank J. Rich, 53.

Rich, who raises the animals between Willow and Talkeetna near Mile 92 of the Parks Highway, has pleaded not guilty to 50 counts of animal cruelty. He told troopers that he breeds and sells the huskies, according to a trooper affidavit.

Rich remained in custody Wednesday at Mat-Su Pretrial Facility.

Linda Ottinger of Anchorage said her husband bought one of the puppies from Rich in October.

"I think he paid $100," Ottinger said. The dog came home with worms and an intestinal parasite, she said.

"He's doing fine now. He's had, of course, antibiotics, and we're going to make sure that he has shots," she said.

The Mat-Su shelter is struggling to find room for the dogs. On Wednesday morning the borough was still seeking straw, blankets and Hills Science Diet Advanced Fitness Original dog food, among other supplies, said animal control manager Richard Stockdale.

Two customers at the Palmer Animal Food Warehouse each bought 20 bales of straw to provide bedding for the huskies, said general manager Nicci Slack. The chain includes four stores in Southcentral -- most under the Pet Zoo name -- where clerks are asking customers if they'd like to donate on behalf of the shelter, Slack said.

At least three people gave more than $100 each, she said.

Stockdale on Tuesday estimated 157 dogs had been impounded at the shelter.

One of the animals was euthanized, said Carol Vardeman, a borough spokeswoman. "I believe it had frostbite."

Twitter updates: Call Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334.

Cash donations can be deposited in a special fund at Wells Fargo, account No. 9373598334. For more on how to donate, visit

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