SPEARFISH — The 26 neglected dogs that were rescued by authorities from a home near Whitewood Oct. 13 are adjusting well and showing real improvement at the Western Hills Humane Society in Spearfish.

“They were eating trash and whatever they could get their muzzles on. They were probably eating any carcass that they could find out there and killing mice and voles and anything that they could eat,” explained Jennifer McCambridge, senior kennel tech for the shelter.

“Their guts are just all out of whack. Some of these dogs have never known steady food or decent food.”

The dogs range from 6 days old, to 3 years old. Many are males, and there are three breeding age females. Most of them appear to be a Rottweiler mix. There is a redbone hound dog with a litter of six puppies.

“The ones that have the Rottweiler markings all have clubbed feet. … It doesn’t hurt them or anything, it’s just from in breeding,” McCambridge said.

McCambridge said all the dogs are surprisingly well tempered for their situation, even if they are a bit rough around the edges.

“I tell you what – no manners whatsoever,” she said with a laugh. “All these dogs will eventually be adoptable. … It’s just going to take a lot of training and they’re going to need owners that have a lot of patience because they’ve never known the inside of a house, they don’t know that rules.”

McCambridge said all dogs require patience to train, but anyone who adopts these particular pups will need to know what they’re getting into.

“They’re (new owners) going to have their work cut out for them, and they’re going to have to have a lot of patience. Hardwood floors would be good too,” she said half-jokingly. “(The dogs are) going to jump when the TV comes on, or they’re going to jump when you vacuum, or you mop, or you sweep, or anything like that. Its all new and different to them.”

Having been neglected and malnourished, McCambridge said her main focus is getting the dogs’ digestive system squared away so they can handle vaccinations and immunization shots. Until then, the newcomers need to be kept separate from the general population of the shelter.

“They probably have a lot of, what we call bad bacteria, and we’re trying to get it all cleared out and get the good bacteria going and get this good food in them and get their body cleared out of all the junk they were eating,” she said. “We keep them away from (the other animals) as much as possible because they’ve never had shots or check-ups or anything like that so we don’t know what they’ve been exposed to.”

Law enforcement arrested a Whitewood man in the case.

Thomas Mraz, of Whitewood, was charged Monday with five counts of animal cruelty and 26 counts of neglect, abandonment or mistreatment, Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald said. He’s being held at a Deadwood jail on a $1,000 bond.

Mraz faces up to two years in prison on each of the animal cruelty charges and one year in custody on each of the neglect charges.

The shelter can’t officially begin the process of adopting the dogs until after the pending investigation and court case against their current owner is completed and they are remanded into the custody of the humane society. However, anyone who might be interested in adoption can fill out the paperwork to kick-start the process once that’s done. In the meantime, McCambridge and her limited staff will start working with the dogs to prepare them for a more stable life.

“We’re going to work on basic commands … so they don’t jump up on people and they’re not biting or clawing … maybe ‘sit’, ‘stay,’” she said. “Court can take a while. So we’ll keep working with them on training … so when they do become ours, some may be ready to got at that point.”

For the most part, all the little animals are making great progress in their rehabilitation and are adjusting well to life indoors, regular feedings, and loving attention.

“Some of them can wind up the others, it’s just like human children. You’ve got a group of children and you’re trying to get them all to focus on one thing and it doesn’t always work. You’ve just got to have the patience and you’ve got to redirect them,” McCambridge said.

“Everything to them is a toy. They’re happy, they’re just wild children is all.”

For more information about filling out adoption papers or to make a donation to the humane society, visit www.westernhillshumanesociety.com, or call 642-1576.

Lawrence County sheriff deputies seized the dogs Oct. 13 following a complaint reporting the neglect, That day, when a search warrant was issued deputies found dogs, including numerous dead ones, living outside and inside a home, trailers and vehicles on rural property between Whitewood and Nisland, said, Capt. Patrick Johnson, with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.

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