By T.J. Pyette
A Havre dog groomer is working with the Toole County Sheriff's Office to launch a fund-raising effort on behalf of 170 dogs seized at the Port of Sweetgrass.
Shannon Lynnes, who owns Doggy Daycare Pet Resort, plans to initiate a fund-raising campaign on a national level, utilizing a circle of animal lovers and professionals she has become familiar with in her more than 20 years as a groomer.
"I'm planning to work the network and try to get a lot of coverage," Lynnes said Monday. "I'm going to be contacting television stations and media sources to begin with."
Toole County sheriff's deputy Kevin Gates said U.S. Customs confiscated the collies on Oct. 31 from a tractor-trailer owned by Johnathan Harman, 49, and Athena Lethcoe-Harman, 40.
The couple, en route from Alaska to Arizona, are accused of crowding more than 170 dogs and 11 cats in the trailer without food or water for a week. They are scheduled to appear in Justice Court in Shelby on Dec. 2 on 182 counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals, according to court personnel. Their attorney said they will plead not guilty and will request a jury trial.
Gates said today that the collies are doing better, but volunteers to look after the dogs during the work week are scarce.
"We are a little short of help during the week," he said. "People are still coming on the weekends, but we have a need for volunteers in the middle of the week."
The Toole County Sheriff's Office also needs small bales of straw to use in building dog houses for the collies, Gates said.
"We are fortunate that the weather has been mild, but cold weather is coming and we need to prepare for the care of these dogs," Lynnes said.
Lynnes said she plans to approach the campaign on two levels, first soliciting money for a general donation fund, followed by some type of fund-raising event.
"I'm not sure what the event will be, but I'm going to be working with some of the 4-H groups in the state to coordinate that," Lynnes said, adding that a 4-H group from Kalispell has already expressed an interest in helping out with the effort.
Gates said the estimated cost of maintaining the dogs, $35,000 per month, is just too much for a relatively small county like Toole County to absorb. The animals are housed at the county fairgrounds.
The Harmans face fines of up to $500 on each charge, six months in jail or both. They might also be required for forfeit their animals to Toole County and pay all reasonable costs incurred in providing treatment for the animals.
Lynnes became involved with the project when she offered her services as a groomer to the Toole County Sheriff's Office.
Lynnes, director of the Montana School of Professional Dog Grooming, said she will be taking her students to Shelby to groom the dogs, and that she has already received more than $5,000 in equipment donations.
Spectrum Laboratories of Idaho is formulating a shampoo specifically for the rescued collies that Lynnes and her crew will use, she said.
The American Working Collie Association has also been involved in an effort to assist the rescued collies.
AWCA has coordinated the donation of stainless steel bowls and rubber gloves to Toole County, and will deploy a grooming team to Shelby soon, president Jean Levitt said in a statement at the group's Web site.
"AWCA has sought professional advice on collie stress management in order to support their emotional needs as well as physical needs during the grooming process. ... We have sought veterinary advice on the deployment of the grooming team. Our medical support team consisting of a veterinarian and a veterinary technician will precede the grooming team to (Montana)," Levitt said.
Gates said today that AWCA will be brought in to take care of the initial grooming needs of the collies and that Lynnes and her students will provide grooming upkeep and ongoing maintenance.
AWCA has established a fund to help defray the cost of its efforts c/o Bethany Burke, AWCA Treasurer, 2807 Lee Trevino Court, Shalimar, FL 32579. In the memo please designate: collie rescue-general, collie rescue-medical, collie rescue-stainless steel bowls.
Lynnes is asking that monetary donations be sent to the Toole County Community Collie Rescue Fund at First State Bank of Shelby, 260 Main St., Shelby, MT, 59474.