Thanks, Oregonian!

Rescue group makes desperate plea to save 50 dogs in Harney County
By Lynne Terry, The Oregonian
January 29, 2010, 9:44PM

Michael Lloyd/The OregonianOne of the 70 dogs rescued from Harney County rests at the Oregon Humane Society. The animals rescued from Eastern Oregon were adopted at a record pace.

The e-mail messages scream into electronic mailboxes, firing up animal lovers from Portland to Pasco, and Bakersfield to Whidbey Island:

“Gut wrenching situation … help is desperately needed … any of the dogs not rescued by March 15th will be SHOT.”

The dogs in question are mostly border collie, Australian shepherd and Shiba Inu mixes roaming on a patch of property about 20 miles south of Burns. They were among as many as 200 that were kept outside in subfreezing temperatures by a couple of longtime renters on the property.

Anita Darlene Anderson, 55, and her husband, Ronald Steven Anderson, 43, were arrested in December on allegations of animal neglect.

That month, the Oregon Humane Society rescued almost 90 dogs from the property, and Harney County Save a Stray rescued about 50.

But Melanie Epping, the founder of the small rescue service, said about 50 remain on the property. According to Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup, they’ve roamed onto nearby ranches, harassing livestock.

In cattle country, that spells death.

Two ranchers, concerned about their livestock, have shot several dogs, Glerup said.

While that might shock animal lovers, an Oregon statue makes it legal to kill dogs chasing or harming livestock.

Glerup said more dogs are likely to be killed if they’re not rounded up.

“We’re about to start our calving season, and I can guarantee you that the ranchers won’t put up with that,” he said. “They’ll also be shot if they’re caught harassing wildlife.”

Glerup said the dogs have been sighted venturing into the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which spreads out a few miles from the property where the two renters live.

Epping, who lives in Long Beach, Wash., but grew up in Harney County, initiated the e-mail flurry by posting a message on her Web site on Sunday, warning that the dogs would be killed if they’re not rescued.

“Nobody was stepping up to help,” Epping said. “We were flailing. That’s what we had to do to get people’s attention.”

Epping said the Andersons, who were arraigned last week in Harney County Circuit Court, have to get rid of the dogs or face jail time.

Animal neglect comes with a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $2,500 fine.

Glerup said the county would be flexible as long as the Andersons are cooperating and trying to round up the animals.

But that’s not been easy.

“They’re wild,” Epping said. “They’re very hard to catch.”

She said she is trying to enlist the help of the animal rights group Humane Society of the United States, which has an office in Eugene.

She’s also hopeful that members of rescue organizations and animal lovers, who’ve been calling and e-mailing her in an avalanche of concern, will pitch in and help.

“So many people are upset about these dogs getting shot that I think we’re going to have a good outcome with this,” she said.

Dogs that can’t be socialized will be euthanized, she said. The Oregon Humane Society has offered to pay to ensure the animals are killed humanely.

“We will pay whatever it takes,” said Barbara Baugnon, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society.

— Lynne Terry

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