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Litter of puppies abandoned in ditch near Thief River Falls

This is one of 10 puppies at the Pennington County Humane Society found last week in a ditch between Thief River Falls and Goodridge, Minn. The puppies were left a day before a blizzard hit the area.1 / 2
This is one of 10 puppies found abandoned last week in a ditch between Thief River Falls and Goodridge, Minn. The puppies are at the Pennington County Humane Society.2 / 2

THIEF RIVER FALLS -- Ten puppies found dumped in a ditch east of Thief River Falls last week just before a blizzard hit are healthy and kicking up a storm of publicity for the local humane society.

"It's not unusual for us to find animals dumped out in the country," said Dawn Williamson, operations manager of the Pennington County Humane Society in Thief River Falls. "But for some reason, these 10 have caught everyone's eye and we are getting lots of phone calls."

The puppy litter was spotted the afternoon of Jan. 21, in the ditch along state Highway 1, between Thief River Falls and Goodridge, Minn. The Pennington County Sheriff's Office hauled them in to the animal shelter.

A winter storm that became a blizzard began Friday, making travel nearly impossible across the region through the weekend.

"It was last week, with all the blizzard warnings out. That's what really made me mad," Williamson said. "But the puppies are healthy and have been fed. They are about 12 weeks old. Even the runts look healthy."

They are mostly black, with white markings. "They are mutts, probably black Lab mixed with collie. They are slowly coming out of their shell."

She posted a request in a local shopper publication for straw for bedding the puppies in her already full shelter and received lots of response, including donations of puppy food.

The sheriff's office is investigating the puppy dumping, which could be charged as a misdemeanor of animal cruelty, Williamson said. "We've gotten a few tips."

An Erskine woman was sentenced earlier this month after pleading guilty to one charge of animal cruelty involving what originally were 29 charges concerning hunting dogs. Mikki Johnson was sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 80 days suspended. Rebecca Johnson pled guilty in the same case and will be sentenced for a similar charge next month in state district court in Polk County. If the two get back into the dog breeding and care business, they will have to serve more time.

"It's not enough, in my opinion," Williamson said of the misdemeanor charge. "But maybe getting the word out is enough to discourage other people from dumping their animals. You can't just dump your animals like you dump your garbage."

She already had 22 dogs before this litter of puppies came in, as well as about 50 cats and a rabbit crowded into the shelter.

Her shelter does not euthanize animals, so the shelter was full and she would have turned down anyone asking to drop off 10 puppies, Williamson said. She encourages people to advertise their pets to sell or give away.

The 10 puppies are up for adoption, for a fee of $125; but the society will pay the local going rate for neutering the puppies, Williamson said.