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Animal advocates believe Weber County puppy rescue may be part of rancher abandonment problem

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UPDATE 12/10/2019: The three rescued Great Pyrenees puppies have all been adopted out by Great Pyrenees Rescue Montana, one of them to Kat Perry and Corey Holt who initially found them. Rescue volunteers said they have spotted the Mama Pyrenees on the mountain along with two other dogs, but have not successfully retrieved them. Their efforts to do so are on-going.

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WEBER COUNTY (ABC4 News) – Call it a case of being in the right place at the right time. Three Great Pyrenees puppies made it out of freezing conditions in the Monte Cristo area thanks to two snowmobilers and the Weber County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue. But according to a local animal rescue group, this incident may be part of a bigger abandonment problem involving ranchers.

The rescue endeavor began Saturday when West Haven residents Kat Perry and Corey Holt, who are both foster parents with Hope’s Rescue, ran into an adult Great Pyrenees while snowmobiling in the Ant Flat area.

“I love dogs, always have. When I was a kid, my family raised Great Pyrenees dogs. We’ve had several litters over the years and we’ve fostered some, so I’m familiar with them,” said Perry. “This one that we ran into obviously had puppies. But she wanted no part of us. At the time, we had no food or anything to give her. So we couldn’t get her that day.”

They returned Sunday and found her two and a half miles from the road in a den with her puppies. With the help of Weber County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, they were able to bring the three puppies down the mountain, but had no luck with the Mama Pyrenees. Volunteers headed back up Monday to try and retrieve her, but were unsuccessful.

“Mama’s skinny. She’s skin and bones. She’s had a hard time feeding pups. Snow’s so deep up there. Great Pyrenees are not really hunting dogs anyway. They’re not fast enough to chase anything down,” said Perry.

According to a Facebook comment by the Utah Wool Growers Association in the Utah Lost and Found Pets page, the Pyrenees belongs to a local rancher who has been looking for her for weeks.

Local advocate groups said this is not an isolated incident and they believe it’s part of a bigger problem involving ranchers and abandonment.

“This is an on-going problem that’s been going on for years. Every year at the end of grazing season, we do see several litters abandoned,” said Shauna Thompson, the Utah representative for Great Pyrenees Rescue Montana. “Some of them are injured and caught in traps. Some are left up on the mountain and they don’t survive. Too often when the snow hits, we don’t get to the animals in time and we find them deceased.”

Thompson explained that guardian dogs are not protected under animal cruelty laws because they are considered livestock.

“We have tried for a long time to work with the Utah Wool Growers Association and ranchers to get protections put into place so that these kinds of situations, like the one yesterday, can be avoided,” she said. “These are amazing dogs. They’re not just used for the mountain. They make great, domestic family pets too. They are wonderful service and therapy dogs.”

She said some ranchers don’t register, vaccinate, spay/neuter, or retrieve their dogs once the cold winter season hits.

“There are good ranchers that will vet and care for their dogs. But there are some who don’t and only consider these dogs disposable tools of the trade. Not all Great Pyrenees are good at their jobs. If they fail or don’t want to watch the sheep, then they are no longer valuable, so they get left behind,” she said.

Perry said Great Pyrenees usually have eight to 10 puppies per litter, so it’s likely there are other puppies out there that may be dead. For now, Thompson’s organization has been tasked with finding a new home for the three rescued puppies. Holt said he and Perry are considering adopting one of them and naming him, ‘Polar.’

“This is a great outcome. These puppies have been found and they’re down and they’re going to be safe. They’ll have better days,” said Thompson.

Requests for comment from the Utah Wool Growers Association were not returned. But in one of their responses on the Utah Lost and Found Pets Facebook page, they wrote:

“Unfortunately (as all pet owners know), sometimes pets/livestock run off, get lost, get stolen, etc. Hence, the need for a lost and found pets page. Sheep dogs aren’t the only dogs who get lost. Producers do their absolute best to keep all the animals together and make sure they all come home, but sometimes accidents happen (and sadly sometimes guard dogs get killed in the line of duty by bears and cougars). Guard dogs are very expensive and very valuable team members who protect the livestock 24/7. If this mama had her pups seven weeks ago, she might have snuck off to have them and that’s how she got lost.”

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