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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Rescue

97 sled dogs rescued from crude pens
in woods;
111 puppies are born so far and more on the way

Ninety-seven sled dogs - including some nursing puppies, several pregnant ones, some blind and all chained to and living in primitive makeshift wooden pens in the woods - have been rescued from a man who was using the animals to give tourists sled rides in Quebec.

The dogs - Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes - are being treated for dehydration, malnutrition and parasites, according to an animal welfare official.

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Suzanne Gagné, an official with the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Laurentides-Labelle, says the owner who ran the sled-pulling operation, a popular activity in the Laurentians, was no longer able to care for the dogs and agreed give them up.

"They didn’t have regular access to food or water. Ms. Gagné told Love of Dogs. "When we rescued them, some were very thin and others were dehydrated. We were also concerned with the fact that they weren’t vaccinated or sterilized."

The Humane Society International, United Animal Nations local officials and some 50 volunteers assisted with the rescue, which took place in Upper Laurentians. A 75-foot trailer was used to move the dogs from the rescue site - seen above in photo from the SPCA Laurentides-Labelle of a dog named Brownie chained to a metal pole near its makeshift wooden pen - to an emergency shelter that had been set up in Val-Morin, where the animals received veterinary treatment, food and care for about a week.

Some of the dogs - like Kali at left in photo from the SPCA Laurentides
- have already given birth to 111 puppies and others are expected to have their litters soon, which could swell the number to 150 puppies, Ms. Gagné said.

"The pregnant females were placed in temporary foster homes so that they could live in a calm environment and give birth and nurse peacefully," Ms. Gagné said. "This story touched many people, and we got numerous requests for adoption. We’re still screening potential adoption homes. We’re hoping all of the puppies will be adopted when they’re ready."

Corinne Gonzalez, executive director of SPCA Laurentides-Labelle, says the rescue came just in time, because the already overwhelmed owner would have also had an influx of puppies to deal with, too. "Without our intervention, the owner could easily have found himself with 150 more puppies when winter is right around the corner," she states in a media release.

SPCA Laurentides-Labelle is caring for about 20 dogs, including several pregnant ones, and others have been taken in by 17 rescue organizations in Canada and the United States, Ms. Gagné said.

Ms. Gagné says some of the visually impaired dogs - like the one at left in photo from the SPCA - have already been adopted. "These were adopted with people who will care for them properly," she said.

But some of the others dogs will need rehabilitation, but Ms. Gagné believes they all will eventually be placed into homes since most are in decent emotional shape despite living in such poor conditions.

"Animals are very resilient and these dogs are no exception - they adapted well," she said. "Since they lived outdoors all of their lives, some had to learn simple things like climbing up and down a stairway. The few who remain shy or fearful have been adopted by loving and patient people who can provide the gentle environment they need.

The other organizations caring for the dogs are:


SPCA of Western Quebec in Gatineau; Reach for the Stars Rescue in Montreal; SPCA Montérégie in Sainte-Angèle-de-Monnoir, Quebec; BARK Rescue Ontario in Ottawa, SiberRescue Ontario in York, Pawsitive Praise Rescue in Chippawa, Ontario; Highland Animal Relief Team in Bancroft, Ontario; Westminster Pet Sanctuary in Ontario; Mississauga Humane Society in Ontario; Newfoundland Rescue (Newf Friends) in Bancroft, Ontario.

United States

Blind Dog Rescue based in Pennsylvania; Ulster County SPCA in Kingston, N.Y.; Berks County Humane Society in Reading, Pa; York County SPCA in York, Pa.; Humane Society of Harrisburg Area in Harrisburg, Pa.; Animal Care Sanctuary in in East Smithfield, Pa; Washington Animal Rescue League in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Animal Rescue League, which is caring for 13 of the dogs that range in age from 1 to 8 years, says the animals need to be acclimated to life in civilization.

“These dogs are friendly, but they are not terribly well socialized,” Sabine Hentrich, certified dog trainer and behavioral specialist at the WARL, states in a media release. “As far as we know, except for their dog houses, many have never been inside before they arrived here. The floors, doorways, artificial lights - everything is new to them and a cause for anxiety.”

WARL chief operating officer Mary Jarvis says these dogs will need special attention by those who adopt them.

“Those who are thinking of adopting one of these dogs would do well to spend some time researching huskies and sled dogs,” she states in a media release. “These dogs are very independent and their need for exercise and their ability to escape can be a challenge to anyone who lives with them.”

Karen Belfi, an official with Blind Dog Rescue Alliance, says her organization is fostering two of the visually-impaired dogs - Fallon, in photo at left from the alliance, and his brother - in Philadelphia. Fallon, a 5-year-old Siberian Husky, is blind in his left eye and sees shadows from his right eye.

"He is doing very well, Ms. Belfi told Love of Dogs. "He's one of the quietest Siberian Huskies I've ever met. He has glaucoma, and one of his eyes will need to be removed at some point."

Ms. Belfi says visually-impaired dogs, like Fallon, are able to adjust and live good lives with some training and rehabilitation. "They generally don't care that they can't see. So we focus on teaching them commands that will help them get around," she explained. "I use 'watch" to signal that something is in their way, and they will learn to slow down and feel for what's
there. I will use 'step' if there are stairs or a curb they need to step up or down on."

Scented oils or perfumes are sometimes sprayed on furniture to help visually-impaired dogs learn where the items are located so they can avoid banging into them, Ms. Belfi said.

Reach for the Stars Rescue is caring for two of the dogs, which each have had nine puppies after being taken in by the animal welfare organization in Montreal. One pup died shortly after birth.

"Both moms and their pups are doing very well," Jacqueline Rockman, an official with Reach for the Stars Rescue, told Love of Dogs. "Jadzia (in photo above from Reach for the Stars Rescue) is the older of the two moms and is a natural. She takes excellent care of her babies and is gentle with people who want to visit with them."

The other dog, Coralie, is young and having some difficulty caring for her nine puppies, Ms. Rockman said. "She is not a natural when it comes to mothering although she loves her pups and wants to do well. We are lucky to have a lactating shepherd who is willing to do one to two feeds and cleans per day to help out."

Ms. Rockman says the 17 puppies are growing, playing and learning. "We are socializing them with cats, small dogs and children on a regular basis as Huskies who are not well socialized with kids and smaller animals tend to not be good with them as adults," she explained, "and we would like to see all 17 pups become good canine citizens."

Jadzia and Coralie also will be available for adoption, but they will need some medical care after they are finish nursing their puppies, Ms. Rockman said.

"All of this medical care will cost us quite a bit, and we need to raise the funds to provide it," Ms. Rockman said. "We are a 'no-kill' organization and will provide whatever medical care is necessary to get them back in shape and to a good quality of life. "

Ms. Gagné says the cost is high to care for and rehabilitate the dogs, like Brownie who is working with counselor Caroline Beaupré in photo at left from the SPCA. "One big expense was feeding the dogs during the week they spent at the temporary shelter (to give you an idea, it was about 250 pounds of dog food per day for this pack)," she said. "Our organization also paid for the vaccines. This amounts to close to $5,000."

Those who wish to adopt or make donations for the care of the dogs should visit the SPCA Laurentides-Labelle or the 17 other animal welfare organizations that are caring for the dogs.

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"Any donation, small or large, is much appreciated since we’re a no-kill shelter and vet bills are quite expensive," Ms. Gagné said.

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