Nineteen dogs were released to the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter after they were rescued during an animal control raid from a Billings man’s property.
Michael James Bigelow, the man accused of killing and starving more than a dozen dogs, has pleaded not guilty to four felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals, and two alternative counts of cruelty to animals.
Shelter employees say the sudden influx has them scrambling to care for the pets in need of new, safe homes.
“There were five, I want to say five adults, and the rest were all puppies,” said YVAS shelter clinic manager Tiffany Smith.
The owners of the seized dogs gave permission Friday to release the dogs: “That means that we can proceed with adopting them or getting ready for adoption,” Smith said.
The 14 puppies are currently in foster care. “They’re just going to be there for probably a couple more weeks until they’re a little more stabilized,” Smith said.
Since arriving at the shelter, the dogs have received medical care and grooming, something that was much needed.
“We saw a lot of intestinal parasites, some of the Komondors had a couple of teeth removed. We removed a mass from the Great Pyrenees. We had to spay and neuter everybody. Everybody got the full works for vaccinations,” Smith said.
Smith believes the dogs were kept chained up outside and alone. The dogs are still getting used to socializing, but there’s hope socialization will come sooner rather than later.
Some of the dogs were ready Friday to find new homes.
“We have four of the adult dogs that get to go up for adoption, which is really exciting,” Smith said.
The shelter needs the community’s help to care for the dogs, especially since more are coming from the property Monday. “We’re not quite sure how many will be coming, but we always have to be prepared,” Smith said.
They’re hoping for supply or monetary donations, or even volunteers.
“We have one of the smallest staffs in the state of Montana for animal shelters so when we get a case like this in, it’s all hands on deck,” Smith said.
Not all animals have been rescued from the property just yet.
Sarah Shipman lives close by; she said, “It hurts my heart to know those horses have been suffering, and the dogs, and all the animals out there for that long."
As a board member of Draft Horse Rescue, she’s been keeping an eye on the five horses that remain on the property. She even spoke to one of the owners of the animals about the fate of the horses.
“I said I wanted to offer a place for them to go, to re-home, and she said she already has somebody planning to pick them up,” Shipman said.
Click here to volunteer or make a donation to the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter.
- 3 men charged with raping a woman
- GF woman recovering from brain tumor
- Jersey Mike's is opening in Great Falls
- 1 teen dead, another injured in crash
- Recent Obituaries