GREAT FALLS (AP) — On Sunday, 181 collies and other animals, seized in an animal cruelty investigation, convoyed 85 miles from Shelby to Great Falls.
The animals spent six months at Camp Collie, a 4-H barn at the Marias Fairgrounds near Shelby. They'll likely spend the next several months in a 20,000-square foot warehouse — dubbed Camp Collie Great Falls — as the legal case against their owners continues.
"This is way, way nicer," Toole County Undersheriff Don Hale said. "The story's not over, but it just got better for the dogs."
About 100 volunteers were there to place the dogs in metal kennels tall enough for people to stand in. The 16 cats have a separate carpeted room.
The animals were brought to Great Falls because 4-H'ers needed their barn in Shelby and local residents were worn out from caring for the animals since Jon Harman and Athena Lethcoe-Harman were arrested on Nov. 1.
The animals had ridden 2,240 miles in nine days in a crowded tractor trailer from Alaska to the Sweet Grass border station when customs officials found them dehydrated, weak, sick and cold. The Harmans were moving to Arizona.
On Sunday, sheriff's cars with flashing lights led a convoy of 30 horse trailers, vans and animal rescue vehicles down Interstate 15 Sunday, to deliver the 170 collies, six other dogs and 16 cats to Great Falls.
Toole County, the American Working Collie Association, The Humane Society of the United States and private donations are paying for the animals' care.
The Harmans, who followed the caravan to Great Falls, have pleaded innocent to 181 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and their first trial ended with a hung jury in January. A second Justice Court trial is expected to get underway later this month.
The Harmans weren't allowed into the warehouse on Sunday, but will be permitted an hourlong visit each weekday, officials said.
The Harmans have been living in Shelby since December. They would not comment Sunday on whether they plan to move to Great Falls.
As the animals were being loaded in Shelby, Lethcoe-Harman sat behind yellow police tape, dictating into a tape recorder her comments on the conditions of each dog. Her attorney filed a motion last week asking that the charges be dismissed on grounds that authorities have failed to properly keep track of which dogs are kept in what pens.
Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.