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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Rescue

Rescued dogs suffered in a field of horror

Four hundred and seventy-five dogs, confined to plastic barrels and makeshift wire cages hidden in a field of 8-foot high weeds where blood-sucking fleas and ticks feasted on them to the point of causing oozing skin infections, have been rescued from a breeder in Texas in what is being described as perhaps the largest puppy mill bust in state history.

Many dogs - mostly small breeds like American Eskimos, Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, Pekineses and Pomeranians - are also suffering from mange, matted fur and eye infections while one has a broken jaw and another apparently had lost a leg after getting it caught in a wire cage, according to the Humane Society of North Texas.

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Humane society official Sandy Grambort says the conditions of the makeshift kennel (as seen in photo at left provided by the humane society) that many of the dogs were forced to live in were horrible. "They were absolutely inadequate and inhumane to have any living creature in much less man's best friend," Ms. Grambort told Love of Dogs.

The dogs were seized from Maggic Pets/Heddins Kennel in Bowie, a town in Montague County outside of Fort Worth, by officers from the sheriff's department. The humane society had received several complaints about dog's having inadequate veterinary care at the kennel on the 1,200-acre property.

The kennel kept some of the dogs in the front of the operation to show prospective customers, Ms. Grambort explained. Those dogs had adequate food and water and their cages were fairly clean. "Up front, where all the puppies were for sale, the conditions were pretty good."

But the circum-
stances were quite different
(as can be seen in photos at left and below provided by the North Texas Humane Society) for the nearly 300 dogs that had been banished and "put out to pasture" in the makeshift kennels hidden out back in a field of tall weeds, Ms. Grambort said. "Fleas and ticks were abound. They were everywhere."

Plastic barrels were used for dog houses and the wire cages - where dogs could easily get toes, feet and legs entangled - were covered with old tarps, Ms. Grambort said. One dog kept there, a 1-year-old Cockapoo, died from flea infestation anemia after being rescued.

"He was just covered in fleas....With a heavy flea infestation like that, he couldn't replace the blood loss fast enough," Ms. Grambort said.

Another dog, an elderly Chihuahua, suffers from a lower broken jaw and is unable to chew. He must eat kibble by carefully manipulating the angle of his head to soften the food with saliva before swallowing. And a small elderly male poodle had become virtually blind from matted fur and encrusted eyes. Rescuers had to crawl on hands and knees, narrowly avoiding a nest of venomous copperhead snakes, to coax him to safety.

“This should not happen. …Texan’s care more about our animals than what I have seen today," Tammy Roberts, lead investigator for the humane society, states in a media release. "We need better laws to protect the dogs in mass production puppy mills.”

Many of the dogs banished to the field were elderly and sick, Ms. Grambort said. She believes the breeders would simply send those dogs to the makeshift kennels once they were no longer needed for breeding. The dogs were provided with no veterinary care in order to save money and left to suffer because "even euthanasia costs money."

Despite their ordeal, Ms. Grambort is hopeful that the dogs can be rehabilitated and eventually placed into homes because, surprisingly, about 90 percent of them have good social skills. "[The breeder] found some way to socialize these dogs."

The dogs that have emotional problems will be sent to foster homes as part of their rehabilitation, Ms. Grambort said. The North Texas Humane Society is also making arrangements with breed-specific rescue groups to help with the rehabilitation. "The breed rescue groups are getting set to assist us," she said. "They will take on the ones with special needs."

For now, the dogs are being keep at a temporary shelter that has been set up at a nearby 4,000-square-foot warehouse in Fort Worth because the humane society shelter simply was unable to accommodate such a large influx of animals, Ms. Grambort explained. Chesapeake Energy Co., which owns the warehouse, donated its use.

Volunteers from United Animals Nations, an animal welfare organization, helped set up the shelter and are assisting with staffing while food and supplies have been donated by PetSmart Charities.

And the busy temporary shelter will get even busier in the coming weeks, Ms. Grambort said. One dog, an American Eskimo, just gave birth to five puppies and about 15 other dogs are pregnant. "I would expect in terms of what we have now in pregnant moms, we may be up to about 650 dogs," she predicted.

Rescue costs so far have amounted to about $30,000 to $40,000 and rehabilitation means more expenses are ahead, Ms. Grambort said.

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The humane society is seeking donations of cash and Purina One dog food to help pay the rescue, care and rehabilitation of the dogs. Visit the North Texas Humane Society to make donations.

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