Friday was moving day for eight of the adult dogs and seven of the puppies seized in December from the Shady Lane Kennels in Ballantine.
Two pregnant English shepherd females and seven 3- or 4-month-old puppies moved from the MetraPark barns into warmer quarters, at the former Moore Lane Veterinary Hospital building at 50 Moore Lane. Seven males moved to outside pens at the same location.
"We're just in the process of trying to move dogs around to make it (fewer) places to go to get to the dogs," said Carla Bracken, records supervisor for the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office, who is coordinating the Moore Lane site.
Use of the building was donated to Yellowstone County by the Moore Lane clinic, which moved its practice into a new building next door in November.
The canine relocation got off to a rocky start Friday morning, when the dog movers discovered that low temperatures had caused a water pipe to burst in the clinic. Once the water was mopped up and the heat turned on, dogs were transported to their new temporary home.
By midafternoon, one of the two pregnant females, tucked comfortably in a large plastic crate, began to deliver a litter of puppies. Meanwhile, the seven older puppies were released into a large room where they could play together.
Another 33 dogs will likely be moved to the old Moore Lane today from the Billings Animal Shelter, Bracken said. The bulk of the animals taken from the Ballantine kennels - about 152 dogs and 11 chickens - remain in the MetraPark barns.
Twenty of the dogs were moved from the Big Sky Pet Center to the Billings Animal Shelter on Wednesday, with the rest remaining at the West End clinic. Moving those dogs from the Big Sky clinic helped alleviate crowding there, said Yellowstone County Undersheriff Jay Bell.
"When the vets initially evaluated the dogs, they felt about 50 needed to be in a warm environment," Bell said. "They've been out at Dr. (Rob) Bruner's Big Sky Pet Center and we also had some at the shelter. Dr. Bruner didn't have room for all of them."
On Friday afternoon, Bruner said two litters remained at his clinic, along with 10 cockatiels, three cats and one juvenile male dog. Some of those will be moved today, he said, but at least one litter and the young male dog that need the most medical care will remain under his care.
Linda Kapsa, owner of Shady Lane Kennels, was arraigned Wednesday in District Court. She pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, two misdemeanor counts of having a dog at large and two misdemeanor counts of failing to provide rabies information.
Kapsa was allowed to remain free without bond until trial. A trial date will be set later.
The animals are considered evidence until the case is resolved and won't be offered for adoption.
Bracken gave a visitor a tour of the dogs' newest temporary lodgings on Friday.
"This is Lex," she said of one of the black-and-white English shepherd males, "and this is Lieutenant."
The dogs have been named by their volunteer handlers, Bracken said. More of the animals will likely be moved over to Moore Lane, she said, once it's determined how many dogs the facility can comfortably hold.
Volunteer handler Becky Hodges was distributing metal bowls of food to her charges. She has been working with a trio of dogs at MetraPark since Jan. 5, when she first offered her help.
"I definitely love dogs and it's been a joy for me," she said. "I've seen progress all along the way. It's been a beautiful thing."
At first, she said, the three dogs camped in one corner, reluctant to move toward her. As they became comfortable with her scent and her presence, they gradually ventured out and responded to her.
"They got braver and braver every day," she said.
On Friday, Lieutenant's tail was wagging as he walked to the front of his outdoor enclosure.
"They're happy," Hodges said. "They've got sunshine and fresh air."