On November 8, 2001, the Alaska Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rescued 64 dogs-including 14 Kerry Blue Terriers-in one of the worst cases of neglect and abuse imaginable. When help finally arrived, more than a year after the situation was known to authorities, nothing could have prepared the rescue team for the squalid, unspeakable conditions they found.
According to the Anchorage Daily News (Nov. 7, 2001), dozens of dogs were "chained, cabled, and roped to trees, trucks, and other objects." Food and water bowls were empty or overturned and appeared unattended. Warm bedding such as straw was absent. And 10 Bouviers des Flandres lay dead at the end of their chains, having slowly succumbed to starvation, dehydration, and freezing nighttime temperatures which reached -20 degrees.
On this godless 2.6 acres of wooded property in Sterling, Alaska, was an abandoned, unheated tour bus-a house of horrors-where the Kerries were found. According to Ethel Christensen, executive director of the ASPCA, "They had to wear gas masks to go inside of it. The smell of feces and urine was so strong. Oh, God, you can't believe the mess. Their fur was frozen right down to their skin."
Inside, as many as 20 dogs were entombed in double-decker plywood boxes stacked 2 deep on both sides, with 4 ventilation holes about the size of a silver dollar. Precious little light filtered to the back of the bus, and the dogs spent their long hopeless days in darkness, unbearable cold, amid rotting and fermenting feces and urine, with next to no food or water.
As reported in the Anchorage Daily News, veterinarian Jerry Nybakken, who assisted troopers serving a search warrant, described the following scene in the bus: "Two of the terriers had been killed by a Bouvier, which gnawed through the plywood roof of its crate to get at the smaller dogs housed overhead. The body of one of the terriers was firmly wedged in a hole and its legs had been chewed from below." Two Kerries had been eaten alive.
After the rescue, the newspaper reported that "one dog had a mat of ice and feces 8 inches deep down its backside." The Alaska SPCA reported that one mat of fur removed from a dog weighed over 1 lb. Most dogs suffered from skin problems, and eye, ear, and feet infections, and all were emaciated. One young Kerry bitch lost an eye due to infection. Another (little Emma) is still suffering from the trauma of her imprisonment in those appalling conditions.
Who perpetrated this crime against the sanctity of life? Caroline Boughton, formerly of Sherman, Texas. And the breeders who sold to her (*), who we can safely assume did little or no screening, no home check, and no follow-up. And the anti-cruelty laws, so lacking in enforcement that the situation in Sterling continued for over a year before the animals could be seized.