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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Rescue

534 dogs imprisoned in filthy, crude cages rescued;
two dogs have puppies, more litters expected

Five hundred and thirty-four dogs - most suffering from wounds and infections and many traumatized after being imprisoned their entire lives in urine-laced, feces-covered wire cages exposed to the harsh outdoor conditions year-round - have been rescued from a breeder in one of the largest puppy mill busts in Texas history. At least two of the rescued dogs have each given birth to four puppies.

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Many of the the small-breed dogs - mostly Chihuahuas, Lhasa Apsos, Poodles, Shih Tzus and Yorkies - have severely matted fur (as can be seen in photo at left from the HSUS) and are suffering from chronic infected wounds, internal and external parasites, skin and eye infections, and dental disease, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

"Our medical director found that 95 percent of the animals had some form of medical ailment. ... These dogs will all need some form of rehabilitation, whether it be mental or physical, but they make great strides every day," Scotlund Haisley, senior director of Emergency Services for the HSUS, told Love of Dogs.

The conditions at the kennel were deplorable, according to Mr. Haisley. "The kennels they were housed in were hot and unventilated - with very high ammonia concentration (from the build-up of urine and feces), making it hard to breathe. Like all puppy mills, these dogs were mostly under socialized and had lived their entire lives in their cages."

The ammonia produced by feces and urine can hurt an animal's eyes and lungs, and the urine also turns into an acid that burns their foot pads.

The 534 dogs, along with eight cats, were seized from Klassie Kennels in Kaufman by the HSUS, the Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake and the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department. A temporary emergency shelter was set up to care for the dogs at the Kaufman County fairgrounds.

United Animal Nations, a national animal protection organization, sent volunteers to help man the temporary shelter. “Our volunteers have been working nonstop to unload the animals, help them acclimate to their new surroundings, and show them kindness like they have never experienced before,” UAN emergency services manager Janell Matthies states in a media release.

Caring for such a large number of dogs at the emergency shelter (seen at left in photo from the HSUS) proved to be a challenge, Mr. Haisley said. "It was a round-the-clock task just to provide basic care to these needy dogs. We had several dozen volunteers there every day along with a full medical team working long hours to be sure everyone was taken care of. It was a difficult, but rewarding task to say the least."

The number of pets that will eventually need homes is already growing because several of the rescued dogs are pregnant, Mr. Haisley said. "We had at least four litters born last week alone - with about 20 puppies produced. I have no way of knowing how many more are in early stages of pregnancy at this point, but do expect many more of the dogs to give birth in the coming weeks."

Mr. Haisley says he is optimistic that the dogs can be rehabilitated and eventually placed into good homes. "Some of the more extreme cases will need to go into special foster care before being adopted," he explained. "But most of these dogs can come around if their owner is patient and understanding of the special needs of a puppy mill dog."

Mr. Haisley says the best way to stop the proliferation of puppy mills is to stop buying dogs from them. "HSUS will continue our siege against this cruel industry, but social awareness of the puppy mill industry is crucial in the fight to end it," he said. "People should be aware that the majority of dogs sold in pet stores come from puppy mills, and that if you are buying from a breeder, it is crucial that you inspect their property and meet your puppy's parents before you buy."

The HSUS has placed most of the rescued dogs with local animal welfare organizations, which will temporarily house and prepare them for adoption. The groups are the SPCA of Texas, Operation Kindness of Carrollton, Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake, PAWS Patrol of Mesquite, Poodle Rescue of Houston and Collin County Humane Society of McKinney.

Tressa Broadhead, the vice president of Collin County Humane Society, says one of the 11 dogs that her organization is caring for has already had puppies. The Shih Tzu dog called Kate (in photos at left from the Collin County Humane Society) has given birth to "four cute babies," Ms. Broadhead told Love of Dogs.

The birth of the three female and and one male puppies had some complications, said Ms. Broadhead, who is fostering the dog.

"Although she is young (approximately 2), she is already missing some teeth, and this created a problem when she went to open the sacks at birth," Ms. Broadhead explained. "She couldn't get one open at all. Thankfully I was there to assist with this, as well as remove one puppy that was stuck in the birth canal. I couldn't imagine what would have happened to this little group had a human not been around to assist. They are all doing well, and Kate is a great mom - taking very good care of her four babies."

Kate will be available for adoption when she is finished nursing and guiding her puppies, according to Ms. Broadhead. "Kate is such a smart girl. I can't believe anyone would leave her in a cage 24/7. She was potty trained in a few days, and just soaks up any attention given to her."

Karl Schroeder, a volunteer with Poodle Rescue of Houston, says the organization is caring for 51 poodles at its shelter.

"The total will likely swell to 60 or more because we have at least three pregnant moms in the group," Mr. Schroeder told Love of Dogs. "All have received initial medical evaluation by our staff veterinarian at our on-site clinic. Some have already been spayed/neutered along with teeth cleaning and full medical work up."

One of the dogs the Houston organization is caring for - whose shelter nickname is Beautiful - has had four puppies, which are now three weeks old (as is seen in photo at left from Poodle Rescue of Houston). The puppies - two male and two female - have been named Chandler, Joey, Monica and Phoebe, according to Mr. Schroeder. Prior to coming to Poodle Rescue, Beautiful had the puppies while she was staying at the temporary emergency shelter set up by the HSUS.

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The cost of rehabilitating the dogs and placing them into homes will be expensive, in some cases hundreds or even thousands of dollars for dogs that need a lot of medical care, Mr. Haisley said. Those interested in making donations to help pay for the medical care and rehabilitation of the dogs should visit the Humane Society of the United States.

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