Foster families forced to return dogs to owner accused of animal cruelty

Foster families give back 12 dogs to sled dog owner Ice Fox outside of Stafford Animal Shelter in Livingston.

LIVINGSTON, Mont. – A Park County court order forced foster families taking care of 12 dogs found neglected and abandoned in Paradise Valley in May 2020 to be returned to their owner.

On May 12, 2020, the Stafford Animal Shelter received a call from the Park County Sheriff's Office about a situation with abandoned sled dogs at a property in Paradise Valley.

The Feb. 5, 2021, court order said the owner of the property, Ice Fox, collapsed in his yard in May 2020 and was hospitalized in a coma for 42 days leaving the dogs abandoned.

Law enforcement seized and impounded Fox’s dogs and over time placed several dogs in the care of various “foster” families and the Stafford Animal Shelter.

According to the court order and findings of fact, "The dogs were in rough shape."

Fox is currently awaiting a court hearing on March 8 accused of two cruelty misdemeanors to animals.

By the time of the first court hearing, the dogs had been in the shelter for 253 days with $51,827.73 in costs of care and vet expenses.

The court found that Fox would pay $15,330 expenses of care from May 12, the month of June, and one-half of July 2020.  

Fox took five dogs home and Michele McCowan, owner of Mountain Angels Sanctuary, took eight dogs for 90 days and perform welfare checks on the dogs in Fox’s care a minimum of once a week.

Park County currently does not have an animal control officer or employee for this type of oversight.

Shannon Ongaro fostered two of the oldest dogs rescued from the property in May 2020, but both dogs ended up dying of poor health.

“I will say that this community of foster families has really come together, and they’ve been working really hard from a legal perspective also in terms of supporting one another, these folks want what’s best for the animals and they’re interested in the animals’ welfare,” Ongaro said.

The group of foster families filed motions to District Court Judge Brenda Gilbert to reconsider the court order of giving the dogs over to the care of Fox.

So far that motion is still to be decided.

Law enforcement and representatives of the county attorney’s office can also check in on either Fox’s or McCowan’s dogs for the next six months.

This is a developing story and we will continue to update this article as we learn more.

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