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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Rescue

110 dogs rescued from sordid pet sanctuary

About 110 dogs - "stressed" and scared" from being crammed into chain-link outdoor kennels placed in rows among piles of trash on a tiny 3.2-acre property - are among 400 animals and fowl that have been seized from a pet sanctuary in what is being called the largest animal rescue in Hawaii's history.

Many of the dogs - Shar-Peis, Golden Retrievers, Italian Greyhounds, Chihuahuas and mixed breeds - are suffering from parasite and tick infestation, eye and skin infections and mange, according to Inga Gibson, Hawaii state director for the Humane Society of the United States, which assisted in the rescue.

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"There were two people and some volunteers trying to care for them. That's totally inadequate," Ms. Gibson told Love of Dogs.

The rescued occurred at Animal Haven, a no-kill pet sanctuary in West Oahu operated by a husband and wife. The woman had recently passed away and her husband contacted animal welfare officials for help.

The 3.2-acre property was too small to support such a large number of animals and fowl. Some kennels had as many as eight dogs in them and trash was piled everywhere (as seen at left in photos from the HSUS), indicative of a hoarding situation, Ms. Gibson said. "If the area isn't being cleaned regularly, it's going to pile up."

Animal Haven may have been registered as a nonprofit sanctuary, but Ms. Gibson says it became a hoarding/puppy mill operation. The operators "just couldn't say no" and were accepting far too many animals.

Dogs were being bred to raise money to support the operation, contrary to animal welfare organization spay and neuter policies, Ms. Gibson said. "Any legitimate animal shelter or sanctuary would never condone (breeding)."

Several of the rescued dogs are pregnant, and others have already given birth, Ms. Gibson said. About 30 puppies born since the rescue have been placed into foster homes.

"This may be one of the largest animal rescue missions in Oahu's history," Ms. Gibson said. "Thanks to the collaborative efforts of multiple animal welfare organizations, these deserving animals now have the chance to find loving, life-long homes."

The Oahu Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - which spearheaded the rescue with assistance from the HSUS, United Animal Nations, Hawaii Dog Foundation, CatFriends, Wild Bird Rehab Haven, Hawaiian Humane Society, Joey's Feline Friends and Love A Cat Charity - has set up an emergency shelter to care for the animals.

Oahu SPCA President Alicia Maluafiti said many of the dogs are stressed and frightened from the ordeal. "We placed a dog into emergency foster care because he hadn't eaten for days," she told Love of Dogs. "We thought we would lose him. He's just very stressed. The foster that took him in cooked him a special stew and he finally ate."

Ms. Maluafiti believes the dogs can be rehabilitated and placed into homes. "Most - if they bite - do so because they are scared. But everyday, we see positive changes in their temperament. ... The more comfortable they get with their surroundings, the more we see their true personalities."

One dog is aggressive toward people, but he will received special care, Ms. Maluafiti said. "We are looking for a trainer to rehabilitate him. He has been placed outside the shelter to ensure the safety of the staff and volunteers."

As for the cats, most are doing well, Ms. Maluafiti said. "Probably half will go up for adoption. We're looking for friends to take the ferals and others that are probably not going to be lap cats."

The Oahu SPCA is feeling the strain of caring for the large influx of rescued animals, Ms. Maluafiti said. "We really need the community to come together to help us on this. We need people to adopt and foster. We need financial support. Now is the time to really see if people care enough to go the extra mile to help these animals."

Caring and rehabilitating the animals is expensive, Ms. Maluafiti said. "We're estimating that we've spent over $100,000 already. The quicker we can get the animals into foster the better it is for the animals and for us (financially). Animals will heal better with families that love them."

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Those interested in fostering or adopting the dogs and cats or who wish to make donations to help pay for their treatment and care should visit the Oahu SPCA.

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