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Creatures Great And Small: Idaho Nonprofit Rescues Sheep Dogs, Pyranees From Horrific Situations

A white dog peeks its head over a red fence rail, focus is on the snout.
Tiffany Larson
Unega Mountain Rescue
More than three dozen Pyrenees, Akbash work dogs were recently rescued from a Twin Falls Co. farm.

It’s difficult to fathom that some of the beautiful dogs on the planet are often rescued from horrible circumstances. But that’s how Tiffany Larson spends her days. In fact, on the website of her nonprofit, Unega Mountain Dog Rescue, the headline reads, “Saving lives, one dog at a time.”

In particular, the nonprofit is dedicated to the protection and rescue of Great Pyrenees/Akbash dogs in Idaho and surrounding areas.

Larson visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about one particular rescue which she described in grim detail, and how the rehab of the rescued dogs, some as young as a few months old, is going quite well.

“The young ones who are not as feral as the older ones were easily adaptable to human touch, easy to vaccinate, easy to chip, get cleaned up and adopt out. So, most of the young ones left. Now, I'm open to all the adults.”
Tiffany Larson

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News, good morning. I'm George Prentice. Spending your days and nights with some of the world's most beautiful creatures sounds wonderful, but the cruelty that some of these animals endure is often unspeakable. Tiffany Larson is here. She joins us from the Wood River Valley where she and her partner run the Unega Mountain Dog Rescue. Tiffany, good morning.

TIFFANY LARSON: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Specifically, you rescue and rehabilitate what? Sheep dogs?

LARSON: Yes, we specifically rescue Great Pyrenees and Akbash working dogs.

Two Akbash work dogs at Unega Mountain Dog Rescue
Unega Mountain Dog Rescue
Tiffany Larson
Two Akbash work dogs, recently rescued by Unega Mountain Dog Rescue.

PRENTICE: What a gorgeous, gorgeous animal. These are some of the best looking dogs on the planet.

LARSON: They really are, and they’re guardians by instinctual nature, but they also are one of the more sensitive breeds.

PRENTICE: So, I was stunned to learn that it's not unusual for sheep dogs to be left behind.

LARSON: That is correct, when summertime ramps up here in Blaine County. We have a lot of ranchers moving through the county on BLM land, that they get to move their flocks into. And usually, each band of sheep has anywhere between five and 10 dogs guarding that band. And lots of dogs aren't able to keep up, either because they're too young or they're sick or they're injured. And usually nine times out of ten, if they can't do their job or can't keep up, they're left behind.

PRENTICE: Let's talk about something outside of Blaine County. Let's talk about what was discovered in Twin Falls County. What can you tell me?

Recently born Akbash work dog rescued from Twin Falls Co farm
Animals rescued included young pups.
Unega Mountain Dog Rescue
Recently born Akbash work dog rescued from Twin Falls Co farm

LARSON: I got brought into that a couple months ago. It was a situation that is not normal for us to rescue. It was a private property situation, a farm. I believe that, probably, it happened that the dogs got out of control with these owners.

PRENTICE: But about how many dogs are we talking about?

LARSON: Close to 40. 38, to be exact.

PRENTICE: Oh, my goodness.

LARSON: Yeah, all different. Eight weeks. Three months. Five months.

PRENTICE: Did law enforcement contact you?

LARSON: No, actually, I work with a lot of different rescues, different coalitions. And they called me in to see if I could help pull some strings to get on this private property because everybody was running into a dead end.

PRENTICE: And so, I'm assuming that you did get on the property.

LARSON: I did. You know, animal control and the Twin Falls Sheriff's Department was called in by neighbors, complaining or concerned about what was going on, on the farm. And unfortunately, maybe their hands were tied, I don't know, specifics, but they only went down and slapped this gentleman with a warning. So, nobody ever went physically onto the property to see what was happening,

PRENTICE: What breeds or breed of dogs.

LARSON: So, he had mostly Great Pyrenees, a few Akbash were in there as well.

PRENTICE: I've got to ask, have any of them perished

LARSON: On the property the first day after being allowed to be on there? I rescued 18 dogs in one day from that property. And as I walked the hundred acre property, I was aware of just boneyard after boneyard, dead carcasses ranging from an actual dead Pyrenees to dead goats to dead cattle. It was… it was pretty horrific.

PRENTICE: So, how many dogs ultimately did you rescue?

LARSON: Right now we have rescued 32 dogs.

PRENTICE: How are they doing?

Unega Mtn Dog Rescue

LARSON: They're great. The young ones who are not as feral as the older ones were easily adaptable to human touch, easy to vaccinate, easy to chip, get cleaned up and adopt out.So, most of the young ones left. Now, I'm open to all the adults.

PRENTICE: Can I assume that there is an open investigation?

LARSON: Yes, apparently there is an open investigation as far as a cruelty investigation for this gentleman, I don't know specifics about that. And I to be honest, I almost don't believe that they're following through.

PRENTICE: But to be clear, you were able to rescue these dogs because this person did allow you to rescue these dogs.

LARSON: He did. He actually… I had him sign a form for me, to relinquish the dogs and allow me on the property.

PRENTICE: Ok, you are an official nonprofit, so how can people support your effort?

LARSON: We have a website, UnegaMountainRescueDog.org. We have a donate button on that website. And people can donate from $1 to whatever they're able to do. Also, people locally are dropping off dog beds, dog food, helping to pay for vet care, all sorts of good things,

PRENTICE: And as far as adoptions… that first contact is what, over the phone?

LARSON: People can contact over the phone, but also on our website, we have an adoption process to go through.

PRENTICE: She is Tiffany Larson from Unega Mountain Dog Rescue. Tiffany, thank you for what you do. Thank you for giving us some time this morning.

LARSON: Thanks.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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