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Carbon County officials seized 58 dogs and puppies that were bred for sale from a home in Roberts on Tuesday after searching the home on a warrant related to animal cruelty and other charges.

Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan sent out a press release Friday afternoon and stated that the animals will be held as evidence for an undetermined amount of time while the situation is under investigation.

“Several of the dogs had escaped into the town, leading to law enforcement discovering extremely crowded and filthy conditions inside the house,” according to the release.

The dogs seized from the property are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels — a popular “toy” breed, the release states. The dogs included mothers, pregnant mothers, intact males, and puppies.

The animals have received veterinary exams and will be taken to a “secure location where they can receive proper care and attention for the duration of the case,” according to the release.

McQuillan has asked the Beartooth Humane Alliance, a local nonprofit in the area, to organize the dogs' care, including physical location, food, and cleaning supplies. Volunteers will also help with their care.

In Montana, animal cruelty is a crime; yet, the state has little ability to regulate large-scale pet breeders. In recent years, lawmakers have made a few attempts to pass new laws to help prevent so-called "puppy mills" and other large-scale breeders from selling unhealthy animals to unsuspecting buyers.

During the 2019 legislative session, Senate Bill 320 became law, clarifying laws regarding the cost of care of animals seized from animal cruelty and animal fighting cases. Under the new law, an owner of seized animals will have to pay the bill while they’re cared for by the county.

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“Basically what it does is it puts upon the person who was watching over these animals or who was supposedly taking care of these animals — that person was responsible for the care of these animals while in custody of the sheriff or other appropriate law enforcement official,” said State Rep. Willis Curdy, who had a hand in two other draft bills related to puppy mills, but those bills never were introduced.

The new law doesn't pertain to the Carbon County case, since it doesn't take effect until Oct. 1, Curdy said.

Monetary donations to help Carbon County pay for the care of the seized dogs can be sent to a dog rescue fund made payable to BHA and mailed to Beartooth Humane Alliance, P.O. Box 2333, Red Lodge, MT 59068. The release encourages donors to write “Dog Rescue” on the memo line.

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