Chililnski found guilty

December 20, 2012: The Lewis & Clark Humane Society, The Humane Society of the United States and Prosecuting Attorney Respond to Sentencing of Convicted Animal Abuser

The Lewis & Clark Humane Society, The Humane Society of the United States and Jefferson County attorney Matthew Johnson issued the following statements in response to the sentence of Mike Chilinski, who was convicted of animal cruelty due to inhumane conditions at his puppy mill. He was sentenced to serve 30 years with 25 suspended, to forfeit all the rescued dogs and barred from owning animals for 30 years. Chilinski bred malamutes for profit, and when responders rescued the dogs in October 2011, they were suffering from severe neglect. The Lewis & Clark Humane Society provided care for the dogs throughout the duration of the case, and The HSUS has already spent $377,000 on the investigation, rescue and assisting with the costs of care.

“This sentence should put other substandard breeders on alert that this kind of abuse clearly will not be tolerated by the community or the courts,” said Gina Wiest, executive director of The Lewis & Clark Humane Society. “In my 15 years working in animal welfare, I’ve never seen such a horrendous case, and I will never forget the day we rescued those dogs and the condition they were in. The system worked; the dogs had they day in court and were vindicated. We thank our friends at The Humane Society of the United States, without whose help– logistical and financial–we would have never been able to have done this rescue, and we stand together in hoping nothing like this ever happens again in Montana.”

“This was one of the most egregious cases I’ve ever been involved with,” said Adam Parascandola, director of animal cruelty response for the HSUS. Parascandola travelled from Maryland to testify at the sentencing. “The Humane Society of the United States is proud to partner with the excellent staff at the Lewis & Clark Humane Society, who did an outstanding job of caring for these animals in the last 14 months. This case is a good example of why we need stronger oversight of large-scale breeding facilities.”

“I am very pleased with the sentence which includes a Department of Corrections term of 30 years with 25 suspended as well as the forfeiture of all of the dogs,” said Jefferson County attorney Matthew Johnson, who prosecuted the case. “I am likewise humbly grateful for the assistance of the Lewis & Clark Humane Society and The Humane Society of the United States. The rescue and successful prosecution likely could not have been accomplished without these two organizations’ assistance, due to the enormity of the case and the costs involved. Now, 14 months later, these dogs will be able to finally be placed in permanent homes.”

Chilinski was an American Kennel Club-inspected breeder who claimed his AKC inspections demonstrated that conditions on his property were adequate. The HSUS released a report in July linking numerous AKC breeders to puppy mills and animal cruelty convictions. The report showed that the AKC regularly opposes laws designed to crack down on animal cruelty at puppy mills.

The dogs will start to be placed in permanent homes and with rescue facilities in the next several weeks. Potential adopters will need to fill out an application and participate in a screening process. Please call 406-442-1660 for more information.


Lewis & Clark Humane Society - Liz Harrison or Gina Wiest, 406-442-1660 or 805-698-8109
The HSUS – Stephanie Twining, 301-258-1491,


October 19, 2012: Lewis & Clark Humane Society “Extremely Pleased”
that Puppy Mill Owner is Found Guilty

“Justice was done” says LCHS Executive Director Gina Wiest

Lewis & Clark Humane Society Executive Director Gina Wiest said she is “extremely pleased” that a jury convicted Boulder puppy mill owner, Mike Chilinski, of 91 counts of animal cruelty yesterday afternoon. The humane society in Helena removed 161 animals in October, 2011 from Chilinski’s property and has been caring for the dogs and puppies ever since.

“It is a great day for the dogs, for the shelter, for the thousands of people all over the world who heard about this case and came forward with support, and for the staff of the humane society who have poured their hearts and souls into helping these dogs since we first rescued them with the help of the Humane Society of the United States and officials from Jefferson County more than a year ago,” Wiest said. “Justice was done.”

The rescue effort, the largest in the shelter’s history, engaged animal lovers from around the globe. Donations of money, food, toys and adoption offers poured in as news of the plight of the abused dogs spread. Local Helena and Bozeman businesses became donors, held fundraisers, and offered support as the humane society began caring for 200 additional animals for what would end up being over a year.

“The wheels of justice turn slowly, but in this case, they turned correctly. This was one of the most egregious cases of animal abuse I’ve seen in my 16 years in the business,” Wiest said. “A year ago the dogs were in terrible shape – sick, emaciated, infested with parasites. Several had open wounds when we got them off the property. It was sickening. They are now healthy and happy. This conviction will hopefully send a message to other puppy mill operators that this kind of neglect and abuse will not be tolerated.”

Wiest said the shelter is now turning its attention to helping the dog’s transition from their care to the care of various Malamute rescue groups around the country who have offered help in placing the dogs in permanent homes. Wiest noted that the finalization of the adoption process would have to wait until after sentencing, expected, she said, in two to three weeks. In the meantime, she urged interested potential adopters to email the American Malamute Assistance League (AMAL) at to get on a list to adopt one of the malamutes.


June 21, 2012: Owner releases 33 malamutes for adoption

After announcing a new home for more than 200 malamutes seized in an animal cruelty case, 33 of the dogs are being released for adoption by their owner.
On June 15, Mike Chillinskim, the dogs owner, setup an appointment to view and release a select number of dogs for adoption.

Gina Wiest, Lewis and Clark Humane Society executive director, says they're unsure of Mr. Chillinski's methods in choosing the dogs but more than a handful were released.

Full story and video at Beartooth NBC here >>


June 12, 2012: Malamutes relocated to new site

Dozens of malamutes at the heart of a neglect case are being moved to a new location while the trial against their owner is pending.

Last October, 160 malamutes were rescued from the Jefferson County property of Mike Chilinski, who faces trial in October on more than 90 animal cruelty charges.

The dogs had been held at an undisclosed location for several months, but the landlord wanted them out by the end of June.

Lewis and Clark Humane Society Director Gina Wiest says the now 200 dogs will be moved to the former State Nursery property west of Helena, starting next week.

The property was the site of a medical marijuana growing operation until it was raided by federal agents in March 2011.

Full story for the Helena IR here >>


June 6, 2012: Seized malamutes looking for new home, officials say

Officials say the malamutes seized in the raid of an alleged puppy mill last falls are being evicted from their current undisclosed location.

Gina Wiest, executive director of the Lewis and Clark Humane Society, said she received notice on Tuesday that a new temporary home for the dogs is needed by the end of June. Wiest would not say exactly where the dogs are being kept but that the location is along Highway 12.

“Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have to leave the building where we are currently housing the dogs and find another place by month’s end,” Wiest said. “Due to the needs of the dogs for play, exercise and shelter, we require a space that is at least 5,000 square feet, that has water and storage.”

Wiest said the number of dogs taken from Mike Chilinski of Jefferson County, originally about 160, has grown to more than 200. An October trial date is slated for Chilinski, who faces more than 90 animal cruelty charges.

Some of the malamutes are being held at the shelter facility. Wiest said the housing will likely be needed until the end of the year, depending on the outcome of the criminal trial.

“We are imploring the community to call us with possible alternative locations for these wonderful animals,” she said. Those who might be able to help to call her at the shelter at 442-1660.

The shelter has been taking care of the animals since October 2011. At the time of a raid on Oct. 12, the dogs were found to be malnourished, unkempt, injured and mistreated, prosecutors allege.

The Humane Society of theUnited States has agreed to cover all of the costs associated with the care and sheltering of the dogs that are not met by donations.

“These dogs deserve a good home; unfortunately we are unable to offer them up for adoption at this time since the trial has not rendered a judgment, “said Wiest. “As such, we must continue to provide care for them until the wheels of justice turn. We must have a new, suitable place for them to live while those wheels turn and we need business and property owners in the area to help us locate a new place for the dogs,” she added.

Report by Angela Brandt, Independent Record

More coverage:

Rescued Malamutes need new home (KXLH, Helena)

Malamutes in need of relocation (Beartooth NBC, Helena)


June 4, 2012: Trial in malamute case postponed until October

The criminal trial of an alleged puppy mill operator is now scheduled for October, a year after the dogs were taken from a kennel in Jefferson County.

Mike Chilinski is accused of more than 90 counts of animal cruelty in the case. He recently filed a motion to disqualify the judge, citing personal bias. But that claim was rejected by another judge called to rule on the motion.

District Judge E. Wayne Phillips ruled it appears Chilinski was using the motion “an alternative to spending the money for an appeal.”

The trial was to take place last month but was postponed when Chilinski accused Judge Loren Tucker of discrimination.

Phillips wrote that Chilinski appeared to be unhappy because findings of fact in the case contained no findings in his favor.

In January, Tucker ruled the dogs would remain in the care of the Lewis and Clark Humane Society until trial. The judge had previously said Chilinski could assist in the placement of at least 70 of the malamutes but prosecutors later alleged he was attempting to sell the animals.

Chilinski originally asked for the dogs to be returned to him but Tucker said there would be no assurance the conditions at hisJefferson Citybreeding facility would improve.

In documents, Chilinski wrote he has concerns about Tucker’s handling of civil hearings over the welfare and placement of the malamutes, as well as the extent of involvement by dog advocates.

At the time of a raid on Oct. 12, the dogs were found to be malnourished, unkempt, injured and mistreated, prosecutors allege.

The Humane Society of theUnited Stateshas agreed to cover all of the costs associated with the care and sheltering of the dogs that are not met by donations.

Report by Angela Brandt, Independent Record


Helena:The trial of Mike Chilinski, owner of the 161-plus Malamutes that were rescued due to alleged animal cruelty from a Boulder property last October, has been changed from early May to a later and at this time unknown date, shelter officials said today.

The Executive Director of the Lewis & Clark Humane Society, Gina Wiest, said, “The current trial date has been delayed due to the Defendant filing an affidavit requesting disqualification of Judge Tucker.  The Supreme Court appointed another Judge, Judge Phillips out of Fergus County, to decide whether there is evidence that would disqualify Judge Tucker to sit on the case at trial.  Once that motion is decided by Judge Phillips, a new trial date will be obtained for the animal cruelty case”

The Malamutes are in the custody and care of the Humane Society and will remain there until the resolution of the trial, Wiest confirmed. “They are not going anywhere until there is a decision handed down in a court of law.”

“We hope that the wheels of justice turn as quickly as possible so that a resolution to this case is swift,” Wiest said. “It is an expensive endeavor and we want to place the dogs in ‘forever’ homes as soon as possible.”

The shelter continues to request donations to help pay for the care of the dogs. Contributions can be made on line at or via mail at PO Box 4455, Helena, MT 59604


Thank you for your interest in the malamutes.

Hey everyone; here’s a great new fundraiser – just in time for the holidays – that our friend Melissa Hoover has offered. She’s the creator of Infinity minerals makeup, and will be donating 40% of all proceeds from all makeup sold November 20-December 3rd.

You can go to Envy Salon and Spa at 2100 N. Last Chance Gulch in Helena or order on line. Either way, your new look will benefit the dogs! Her web site is A big shout out to Melissa for making this happen. Please support this fundraiser if you can!

Thank you for caring, and don’t forget to check out our Facebook page for news, too! If you are able to donate, please CLICK HERE.

arrowIf you are interested in volunteering, please call Jessie at 442-1660.

arrow If you can make a donation to help offset the costs of caring for the dogs, please click here.


Press releases and media:

'Malamute Munchies' fundraiser to assist Humane Society >>

161 malamutes moved from Lewis & Clark Humane Society >>

Malamutes moved from Humane Society to undisclosed location >>

Rescued dogs move indoors at secret location >>

Malamutes moved to off-campus location >>

The Humane Society of the United States Assists in Rescue of 161 Dogs from Montana Puppy Mill >>

Billings Gazette: 140 dogs, 200 marijuana plants seized from home >>

Beartooth NBC: Man charged with multiple felonies in connection with marijuana operation >>

KRTV: Chilinski facing animal cruelty, marijuana charges >>

Independent Record: Puppy mill and illegal pot operation busted in Jefferson City >>

KFBB: Man Charged With Animal Cruelty, Drug Charges >>

KXLH: Jefferson County man facing charges; 140 dogs, 200 pot plants >>

NBC Montana: Humane Society Rescues 161 Dogs From Alleged Puppy Mill In Jefferson County >>

Man charged with multiple felonies in connection with marijuana operation >>


Older updates:

UPDATE 4-20-12: The trial of Mike Chilinski, owner of the 161-plus Malamutes that were rescued due to alleged animal cruelty from a Boulder property last October, has been changed from early May to a later and at this time unknown date, shelter officials said today.

UPDATE 11-1-11:Local Helena resident Lisa Fairman announced today that she was creating a special dog biscuit, called Malamute Munchies, sales of which would benefit the Mals. Fairman worked with local retail outlets to set up places for people to come purchase the goodies. In Helena, the biscuits will be for sale starting Friday November 4th at the following locations: Van’s Thriftway, The Pan Handler’s, Park Avenue Bakery, Birds and Beasley’s, Montana Book Company, Allegra Print and Imaging and Tread Lightly. They will also be on sale at the shelter’s front desk during working hours. A huge thank you to Lisa and all the retail outlets for helping care for the dogs through this yummy promotion! Click here for the full press release.

UPDATE 10-27-11:More great news and support from around the area for the Malamutes! See today’s Helena Independent Record which chronicles another great story of help from friends of animals: We are s grateful to everyone who continues to step up!

Read "Puppy Love" >>

And a huge thank you to everyone who came out on Tuesday night for the fundraiser Dog-tober Fest at the Lewis and Clark Brewery. Almost $4,000 was raised to help support the Mals!


UPDATE 10-25-11: The wonderful Mals are continuing to get used to their new homes and this cooler weather isn’t bothering them at all! Meanwhile, the support continues; we just heard from our friends at Dee-O-Gee on Main Street in Bozeman that they are running a food/toy drive for the dogs, so if you’re anywhere near Bozeman, stop by! Also our friends at Mind’s Eye Tattoo are offering specials on piercing that will benefit the dogs. We are so grateful for the community’s response!

Please keep checking here for news about fostering, volunteering and/or adopting, We remain connected to the County Attorney’s office in all things related to the future of the dogs, and will let you know as soon as we know anything.


UPDATE 10-20-11: WOW! Today we found out our friends at the Lewis & Clark Brewery on Dodge in Helena have created a special fundraiser called DOGTOBER FEST which will benefit the Malamutes. The event will start at 4:30pm on Tuesday the 25th. If you’re in Helena, please stop by. There will be beer, brats, music, auction and raffle, all proceeds of which will go to the dogs. We are SO GRATEFUL. If you need more info, please call Karen at 442-5960 or visit their facebook page. Meanwhile, the dogs are precious and enjoying eating, sleeping and being loved on. Thank you so much for your support, and if you want to donate, please CLICK HERE.

UPDATE 10-18: The dogs today enjoyed the sun and stretched languorously. HSUS is still here helping in so many ways. Lots of folks have dropped off food and bedding and Kongs. We have also been receiving support from all over the world! We are so grateful for everything everyone’s been doing for the dogs, as well as helping spread the word.

UPDATE 10-17: The dogs spent the weekend resting after their day getting vet checked, vaccinated and micro chipped on Friday. Here are some photos! A huge thank you to everyone who is sending in money. It is costing about $2400 a day to care for the animals, so donations are needed! You can donate securely on-line or mail to Lewis & Clark Humane Society at PO Box 4455, Helena, MT 59715.

UPDATE: We are so grateful to people who have taken an interest in Project Malamute! We’ve received donations from all over the United States and internationally, including Italy, Sweden, England, and Canada. Thank you so much for you caring and support.

Meanwhile, there will be more coverage on local TV stations this evening, featuring footage of some of the dogs while they were getting their vaccinations and health checks. A shout out to the local Van’s Thriftway for supplying lunch for all our volunteers, staff and veterinarians!

The dogs are going to be vet checked today, here at the shelter, by local veterinarians. They all settling in and settling down. More TV and press are coming by this afternoon, so check out local TV stations tonight for more photos and video! Meanwhile, if you missed any of yesterday’s coverage, here are some recaps!