WYOMING -- It's been a month since animal cruelty charges against Marci Biesheuvel were dismissed.
Now the 51-year-old woman who runs Litl' Bit of Love Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in rural Carpenter is working to get her nonprofit animal rescue back up and running.
During an interview last week, Biesheuvel said she had 20 dogs available for adoption, and she was still at work on a building to house small dogs.
On Feb. 24, Laramie County sheriff's deputies and animal control officers came to the rescue with a search warrant alleging filthy conditions in the house where the small dogs were kept.
Deputies then arrested Biesheuvel on a charge of resisting arrest.
They confiscated more than 100 dogs, cats and rabbits.
Before the shelter could seek a court order, Biesheuvel ultimately surrendered the animals to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter.
Biesheuvel said last week that she was arrested after asking if she could retrieve her cell phone. She also said no one listened when she asked the officers to take along various medications prescribed for the dogs.
She said animals were well-cared for, and she had 250 adoptions last year.
"I took animals no one else would take," Biesheuvel said. "Everyone calls me a hoarder, but no one ever asked me how many I adopted out."
She relies on donations to run the shelter and has gotten at least one grant, but she also uses her own resources, she said. When she used to work outside the home, for instance, she said she "donated" much of her paycheck to her rescue.
When asked how she takes care of herself, she said, "It's not that hard."
"You know, if you're paying for utilities in the house and it's for the animals, too, what else do I need? My vehicles are donated. I maintain them."
Has she taken in more animals than she can handle, as her critics have alleged?
"How many times have you looked in somebody else's eye when they bring you an animal and said, 'Gee, I'm sorry, you're going to have to take them to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter, knowing that they'll put it down.' I did that to a couple people.
"I'm a no-kill shelter. The Cheyenne Animal Shelter is not."
She cited a case of a woman who owned two dogs: the chocolate lab had attacked and killed the Pomeranian. The owner wanted to find a home for the lab, but was allegedly told by the Cheyenne Animal Shelter they would euthanize the dog.
"You look that person in the eyes and tell (her) that the dog (she) had for 10 years has to be put down," Biesheuvel said.
"So, how many can you take care of?"
Her friend and bookkeeper, Maureen Crea, addressed the dogs cited in the search warrant, which said the small dogs lived in crates in the house. The carriers were so filthy, the search warrant says, urine dripped on the animals below.
Crea said it was true they lived in crates.
"There was not urine dripping down on anything," she said. "These are crates with solid bottoms."
She added that the dogs were let out three times a day for 90-minute stretches, "in shifts, mind you."
It was 12 days before the animal control confiscated the dogs. Biesheuvel had taken in a number of small dogs from a breeder from another state.
It was what Crea described as a "no win" situation. Originally, she was supposed to get 20 at the most. She ended up with nearly double that because, long story short, the breeder said "you either take all of them or none of them."
"So Marci did the only thing I know Marci would do," Crea said. "It was just a matter of either you do or you don't."
They kept them in the house because the building wasn't finished yet and it was too cold to keep them outside. Biesheuvel said she was able to adopt out 11 the first week.
Her attorney, Michael Bennett, said this is typical of the kind of unwanted pets that Biesheuvel takes in.
He said she feeds and shelters them, seeks veterinarian care to alter them and provide medical attention, works on their behavioral problems, and "make them as comfortable as she can" until she finds a new home.
"People love warm, soft puppies," Bennett said. "It takes a true animal lover to embrace a 10-year-old mongrel dog with one eye and a surly disposition when he's eating. It's those dogs that Marci is trying to provide a good quality of life as best she can."
He went on to say the district attorney's office had done the right thing in dropping the misdemeanor charges against Biesheuvel.
State law requires that a veterinarian must determine if the animals are cruelty victims, he said. On that February day, animal control officers wrote the citations without that determination.
He also said state law states that animals need adequate food, water and protection from the weather.
"If these dogs were in a home, and a home is proper protection from the weather for me, it ought to be all right for dogs and cats," Bennett said.
It was those factors that prompted the district attorneys to drop the case, he said, and rightfully so.
While other states have regulations for animal shelters and rescues, Wyoming has none.
"As long as animals are being fed, watered and have shelter from the weather, there is very little that can be done (to address) the state of the home," Laramie County District Attorney Scott Homar said a month ago.
After he announced his office's decision, local animal advocates criticized Homar.
But Crea says that once Biesheuvel gets the new building up, and carries out the rest of her vision for her rescue, "It's going to be a wonderful place. I think it will be the envy of Laramie County."
(Wyoming News - Sept 18, 2010