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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Rescue


89 dogs rescued from a filthy, putrid 'hell hole'

Eighty-nine dogs - many suffering from painful skin burns from being incarcerated in urine- and feces-covered cages piled atop one another in enclosed trailers - have been seized from a breeder in Arkansas during a raid where rescuers had to wear masks because of the noxious stench.

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The filthy dogs (some seen at left in photos from the HSUS), mostly small breeds such as Brussels Griffons, Shih-Tzus and Chihuahaus, also are being treated for eye and skin infections, severely matted fur, acute dental disease and parasites, according to animal welfare officials. One dog, too weak to stand, had to be cut loose from the cage after its waste-soaked fur became entangled in the bars.

Scotlund Haisley, senior director of emergency services for the Humane Society of the United States, says the conditions at this "hell hole" of a breeding operation were the worst he has encountered in the 15 rescues of 4,000 animals that his organization has been involved with this year.

"It's hard to even fathom that people can act like this to animals or anything," he told Love of Dogs. "These dogs have been laying in their own feces and urine their entire lives. ... It's turning into an acid and burning their coats."

The breeding operation was being run by two sisters in Lamar, Arkansas. Officials from the Johnson County sheriff’s department and the Humane Society of the United States conducted a raid of the property after receiving tips from citizens about the living conditions of the animals. The rescue also included six cats and two guinea pigs being kept in small cages and some larger dogs chained outside with no protection from the elements.

Desiree Bender, Arkansas state director for the Humane Society of the United States, also said that the conditions on the property were some of the worst she has seen. "The two women that owned these dogs had not had running water for more than a year," she told Love of Dogs. "The dogs were kept in filthy kennels sitting upon layers and layers of feces."

The cramped trailers (seen at left and below in photos from the HSUS) had no ventilation, so the dogs lacked fresh air which took a toll on their health, Ms. Bender said. "Of all the cases I have handled in the last 10 years, the dogs cooped up inside are always in much worse condition than the dogs that have access to fresh air."

Ms. Bender advises people who plan to get a pet to only do business with licensed breeders. "Do your research by visiting the kennel and requesting to meet the parents of the puppy you are considering," she said.

Those who want a dog - even purebreds like Shih-Tzus and Chihuahaus - can also adopt from a shelter or a reputable rescue, Ms. Bender said. "Anyone wanting a purebred dog can go through that breed's rescue," she said, which can be found by doing a search on the Internet. "You will find there are tons of good rescues out there that are dedicated to helping one breed."

Volunteers with United Animal Nation’s Emergency Animal Rescue Service helped set up and operate a temporary shelter to care for the rescued animals for a few days.

“The UAN volunteers have been working nonstop to help the dogs acclimate to their new surroundings and give them clean kennels, food, water and attention like they never experienced before,” UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies states in a media release.

After receiving emergency treatment at the temporary shelter, most of the animals were taken on an 18-hour journey to Washington, D.C., where the Washington Animal Rescue League is caring for 83 of the small-breed dogs and the six cats.

“We have the resources to turn these dogs’ lives around, though it takes a lot of concentrated effort, time, and money," Dr. Gary Weitzman, the league’s president and CEO, states in a media release. "Dogs from puppy mills have invariably suffered prolonged, gross neglect, and they are among the neediest animals a shelter will ever be called upon to help. But we feel we are well qualified to undertake the work, and ultimately, we find it extremely rewarding.”

The animals will be treated for any medical problems and socialization issues at the Washington Animal Rescue League's Medical Center to help get them ready for adoption. Some will be ready for adoption sooner than others, who will need more time to adjust.

The Washington Animal Rescue League will offer counseling and training to those interested in adopting the animals.

Mary Jarvis, an official at the Washington Animal Rescue League, says a special kind of pet owner is needed for rescue dogs. “Since they have never experienced anything close to life as a normal pet, some will be very fearful," she explained. "House training can be a real challenge - the dogs have never so much as set foot outside. But if someone has the time and perseverance to deal with their special issues, it can be very satisfying to give one of these dogs their first-ever home.”

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Those interested in making donations to help pay for the care and rehabilitation of the dogs or who want information about adoption should visit the Washington Animal Rescue League.

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