An email thread about a homeless woman living in her car with her three dogs has been circulating for a few months in a group of Anchorage animal lovers. The situation has changed, but it's likely not the outcome anyone wanted. 

Wednesday, there was one less dog in the car. 

These dogs have been healthy

The woman living in a red Dodge Durango with her dogs doesn't want to be identified by name. She doesn't want attention at all, but she can't seem to escape it. 

A group of citizens called on Anchorage Animal Care and Control officers to check on the animals more than a dozen times in recent weeks, according to AACC spokeswoman Laura Atwood. 

"These dogs have been healthy. Any time our officers have gone out there, their body condition has been fine," she said. 

Atwood said the officers look for specific factors during welfare checks, including whether the dog is the size it should be for its breed and age, as well as signs of neglect like feces in an animal's living quarters. The dogs in question, Atwood said, aren't living in filth, and don't appear to be abused or neglected. They do live in a car with their owner who is homeless — a part of the situation the woman said people don't seem to be too concerned about. 

"I lost everything," she said, describing a complicated dispute with a former landlord that left her living out of her vehicle. 

The dog owner said Wednesday, all she has left is her car and her dogs. In a previous interview, she said they are her family. 

"My dogs are spoiled. They're taken care of better than half the kids in this neighborhood," she said, gesturing to the Muldoon neighborhood where her vehicle was parked. "With the exception of them living in a car, that's the only difference."  

Losing a family member

The owner said she was moving her car to avoid citizens reporting parking violations to Anchorage Police. While parked in another location, one of the dogs got agitated and bit someone.

An email from Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services administration manager, Michael Tierney, describes the incident: 

"The incident occurred on Nov 17, 2018, when two of the dogs got loose. Both displayed aggressiveness toward an employee in a McDonalds parking lot and one dog bit the employee. The owner was able to get both animals back into her vehicle. An ACO responded and impounded the dog." 

The bite means the dog is now in the custody of animal control and is classified as a "Level 4," meaning it's too aggressive to be put up for adoption. 

The woman said she must pay $10,000 in owed fines and fees before she can get the dog back, something she says she won't be able to afford. Blaming animal advocates who voiced concerns about the dogs, the owner said she is "losing a family member." 

Wednesday was the deadline to claim the dog before it would be euthanized. The woman visited the shelter to say goodbye.  

"Human reasons — what's going on in a person's life — and what happens in an animal's life, are intricately tied together," AACC's Atwood said. 

Until the dog owner can get back on her feet, she will continue to live in her car. Now, with one less dog. 

Title 17 

Those who voiced concerns about the dogs are calling for changes to Title 17, the section of municipal code that governs animals care. Some believe that the guidelines should be more specific. 

According to Tierney's email: 

"Health and Human Services and the Animal Control Advisory Board (ACAB) are currently working on changes to Title 17 to preclude this from occurring again. One change involves requiring all fines be paid regardless of whether an animal is taken into protective custody or impounded. Another amendment will propose proper shelter for outdoor dogs which will more specifically outline the requirements for adequate shelter as well as provide examples of inadequate shelters such as vehicles. A draft of the recommended changes is anticipated to be ready at the next ACAB meeting on Dec 20, 2018." 

Atwood invites members of the public who wish to weigh in to attend the public meeting on Dec. 20 at 5:30 p.m. in the classroom at the Animal Care and Control Center located at 4711 Elmore Road. 

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