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GREAT FALLS (AP) — A justice of the peace said jurors in the animal cruelty retrial of an Alaska couple will not be able to view the dogs that are the subject of the trial.

Toole County Attorney Merle Raph and Teton County Attorney Joe Coble argued that letting the jury see the collies would be irrelevant because they look and act much better than the night they were found.

Teton County Justice of the Peace Pete Howard also ruled Tuesday that Athena Lethcoe-Harman can't testify about her dogs' pedigrees, her efforts to weed out a collie eye disease or about the kennel she and her husband built for the dogs at their new home in Arizona.

The rulings by Howard eliminate a number of the arguments Lethcoe-Harman's attorney used during the first trial in Shelby. That trial ended in a mistrial when the six-person jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

The retrial is scheduled to start May 27 at the Deer Lodge County Courthouse in Anaconda.

Lethcoe-Harman and her husband, Jon Harman, of Nikiski, Alaska, face 181 counts each of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

U.S. Customs inspectors found their tractor-trailer full of allegedly emaciated, dehydrated and diseased animals, mostly collies, when the couple tried to cross the border into Montana last Oct. 31.

Lethcoe-Harman, who is diabetic, had also asked to bring to court a service dog she said is capable of warning her when her blood sugar is about to drop. Howard said the defense presented no evidence of the dog's certification.

Howard said any witnesses would have to testify in court. Several witnesses testified on the Harmans' behalf over an Internet Webcam during the first trial.

Howard also ruled out any testimony about American Kennel Club penalties.

Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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