Neglected dogs show signs of improvement

Animal shelter requesting support from the community to ensure animals receive critical care; BCSO files animal cruelty charges against two people

By Reader Staff

The 10 dogs brought to Better Together Animal Alliance in mid-January as part of an active investigation by the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office are showing signs of improvement thanks to lifesaving veterinary care generously funded through community support. In an update Jan. 25, BCSO officials shared that 31 dogs had been identified as related to the case, and that Jacob M. McCowan, 45, and Jessica L. Smurtwaite, 31, of Utah had been charged with 31 counts of Animal Cruelty/Abandonment of Animals. 

In an update provided Jan. 24, shelter officials said they would be receiving five more dogs related to the same case in the coming days, and continue to provide support for several other related dogs in foster homes.

One of the ten huskies currently in the care of Better Together Animal Alliance. Courtesy photo.

“We have a treatment plan and everyone seems to be on the uphill swing,” said Devin Laundrie, BTAA operations director. “This is with the exception of one dog. Sugar, who was the first dog we received, is in stable condition but will have a long road ahead of her. We believe she was a week to days away from dying based on her condition when she arrived.” 

Sugar, like many of the other dogs receiving care at BTAA, is being treated for lower gastrointestinal issues where parasites and bacteria, such as E. coli, are the main contributing factors. With these dogs on the mend, BTAA is now working to treat any dogs that are currently being cared for in the community. Due to the severity of infection, it is vital that any dogs that may be part of this case be seen for medical treatment.

“Sugar is a great example of why each of these dogs needs to be evaluated and treated,” said BTAA Executive Director Mandy Evans. “We are expecting to treat anywhere between 15-30 dogs in total, both at our facility and in homes throughout the community. 

“We are urging anyone who may have one of these dogs at home to contact us or bring them in so they can receive the care they need,” she continued. “They are welcome to continue to keep the dogs at home, but they need to be evaluated for similar infections.” 

As each dog progresses, they will move into a foster home for about two weeks, complete with a care package containing a leash and collar donated by EzyDog, blankets, toys, treats, food and any necessary medical supplies. The dogs will continue receiving medical support and observation by BTAA’s medical team and may need ongoing care for some time. 

“We are so humbled and grateful for the outpouring of support,” Evans said. “We are continuing to fundraise and ask for food donations, as we know there will be more dogs coming to us in need of care and supplies. If you haven’t already, please consider making a donation.” 

Those wishing to donate food — of which the shelter is in urgent need — can drop it off at food donation bins located at Yoke’s, Super 1, Petco, and North 40 in Sandpoint and Ponderay. 

Donations can also be made online via the animal alliance’s Chewy wishlist at and shipped to the facility.

To donate to the online fundraiser, visit

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