Brad Froke’s father raised Dalmatians. He has a heart for dogs — even, and maybe especially, this dog: an unnamed mutt with big black ears and a grey torso.
Froke speaks softly to it; he apologizes when the leash gets tangled and murmurs encouragements when the dog hesitates to move forward.
The wind whips a cut-off T-shirt across Froke’s chest. He walks with the dog down Metro Road toward the charred school bus at the nearby fire training facility. The journey is brief, but before the end of the afternoon, Froke will have done it a couple dozen times.
He drove into the Metro Animal Shelter parking lot late Thursday morning. He sat in the driver’s seat of his SUV with the door ajar, waiting for the shelter to open at noon. He’s not the only person who has sat in that parking lot waiting for the doors to unlock. Metro is a first come, first served establishment, so there have been many days where prospective pet owners have showed up hours ahead of time, hoping to get their pick from a new litter of puppies.
Froke isn’t at Metro for a new pet, though. He has two at home already — a 170-pound pit bull named Duke and an adolescent border collie named Scrappy. No, Froke came to see what he could do about the 65 animals that were shuttled into the shelter the night before.
Casper police spent roughly 10 hours on July 17 moving animals from a south Casper home into the backs of pickup trucks and trailers. Neighbors had been calling in complaints about animal feces, and the police department requested a warrant to investigate. When they entered the home shortly before noon Wednesday, they found a home littered with animal squalor and what they originally estimated to be nearly 80 animals.
When the chaos was through and an official count could be done, the total number of animals was 65: 42 dogs, 14 cats, eight parrots and one chicken.
When Froke heard about the situation, he said he thought Metro could benefit from extra hands, so he volunteered to walk some of the dogs. Dozens of other residents have also reached out to see what help they could provide.
The phones inside Metro were ringing nonstop Thursday with calls from people interested in adopting one of the newly rescued animals.
“It’s pretty much all of our phone calls today,” said Justine Tuma, a kennel technician at the shelter.
But the animals couldn’t be adopted until a judge heard the case. Prosecutors told a Star-Tribune reporter Wednesday that misdemeanor animal cruelty charges would likely be brought against the woman who lived in the home the animals were taken from. As of Thursday evening, no charges had been filed against the woman, according to Rebekah Ladd, a spokesperson for the police department. Ladd said the department is still investigating the situation.
Until that investigation is resolved, the animals will remain at Metro, along with the more than 140 animals that were already housed by the shelter.
The police department announced Friday that the owner had officially surrendered the animals and they would be available for adoption starting July 25.
Tuma said the influx did stretch the shelter’s capacity, but because so many of the animals were small, they’re making do with the room they have — holding two, three or even five dogs in one kennel, for example. She said it’s not the first time the shelter has been overwhelmed by animals brought in from a police confiscation, and there’s no telling how long it will take to find the animals homes.
“It all depends on when they get into court,” she said.
To help mitigate the shelter’s population, Metro is waiving adoption fees for cats through July. The shelter is also encouraging people to come and adopt the animals not involved in the police investigation to try to reduce the shelter’s current volume.