Thursday, February 12, 2009

The next chapter

On February 12, the last of the Wayne County puppy mill dogs left the temporary shelter, bound for the next -- and happier -- chapter in their lives. The dogs were transferred to the following humane organizations, where they will be available for adoption:

- Washington Animal Rescue League
- Montgomery County Humane Society
- SPCA Tampa Bay
- Dachshund Rescue of North America
- Norfolk SPCA
- Chihuahua Rescue and Transport
- Pawfect Match Rescue
- The Sterile Feral
- Richmond SPCA
- Humane Society of Charlotte
- SPCA of Wake County

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN emergency services manager

The owner of the puppy mill relinquished custody of all the dogs today!!!!! They will all be transferred to other humane organizations to be readied for adoption. It's late and we're still working. We've got a long night ahead getting 26 Yorkies out tonight and 150 ready to go tomorrow morning, so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...

EARS volunteers in the news...

EARS volunteers Betty Harmon and Angel Zebraski are featured in a news article about the puppy mill rescue that ran in the Goldsboro News-Argus on February 10. Check it out!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Twisting the days (and nights) away

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN emergency services manager

Day four here at the North Carolina puppy mill temporary shelter. Our charges are still coming around. Many are still in shock and just terrified, but quite a few are improving. We are still discovering major medical issues with some of the dogs. We’ve found more parasites and a few who appear unable to walk. The groomers and vets worked together all morning removing ingrown toenails, horribly painful to even see, but I’m so glad we were able to take care of that. I imagine the dogs are even happier. The vets are here working with the animals and trying to diagnose and treat what they can. Some of the dogs have been transported to a local vet for blood work and other things that we are unable to do here at the shelter.

Now that our charges are starting to settle in, we are getting to know them more and more. Even though we have around 300 dogs, the volunteers still talk about "the black one in the back that does this," or "the white one with the curly tail." And they know exactly which dog the other is talking about.

We now even have an official mascot. Twister, a (probable senior) Lhasa apso who is blind in both eyes and has multiple other issue and the appetite of a grizzly bear, has become our comic relief. When I first saw him my heart broke; he was obsessively circling his cage and licking the bars. I went to say "hi" and when he heard my voice he stopped, cocked his head and immediately hopped out of his cage into my lap. I have no idea how he knew right where I was. We were worried because he wasn’t eating. One of the volunteers thought that maybe he didn’t know his food was there. We put some stinky wet food in his cage, pointed his nose toward it and he gulped it down in seconds. We also have to show him where his water bowl is. If you interrupt his spinning, he cocks his head, wags his tail and genuinely seems happy to know we are visiting. We moved Twister's cage outside into the sun today for some fresh air. He circled for a while then settled down for a nice nap in the warm sun. What a trooper. This has to be terrifying for him, yet he still trusts us and seems relatively happy.

We’re still waiting for word on the mom who went into labor. The vets are still vetting, the groomers are still grooming and the EARS volunteers haven’t stopped moving. They have been tireless. We are now getting dinner ready for the dogs, setting up for a final cleaning and making sure we have everything we need for tomorrow. My feet have turned against me and complain bitterly every time I walk, but the rest of me is getting used to doing squats (top cage, bottom cage, top cage, bottom cage) for 10 to 12 hours each day. I forget what the rest of the world is like, I can only think of dogs, dogs, dogs ... very stinky dogs, but there is no place I’d rather be.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Grooming galore

Submitted by Jannell Matthies, UAN emergency services manager

As another long day comes to an end I’m thinking over the whirlwind of activity these dogs have been through over the last few days. From the seizure and transport to new clean cages with regular meals, then to be taken out to be poked and prodded and looked at by the vets. Moving on to get their pictures taken, weighed, documented and the heavy chains cut off their necks -- usually done with bolt cutters, the chains were so ridiculously heavy -- spending sometimes hours on the grooming tables and still being able to give us a wag of the tail.

Some of the dogs had literally pounds of hair and fecal matter cut off their bodies today. They went from droopy, saggy sad dogs to spunky, alert and affectionate pups in minutes. The groomers are going through their blades very quickly though, so we will be on a massive search tomorrow for additional blades. The groomers have generously offered to pay for more, but I know it will be a big expense to get through all these dogs. Who knew that would be one of our biggest needs!?! If you want to help us buy more blades for the puppy mill dogs, please make a donation to our Disaster Relief Fund!

These guys have come far in a few days and it’s beginning to show. They are still a very quiet bunch; for 300 dogs you would think the noise would be ear piercing. Now that we are getting to know them as individuals, their personalities are starting to peek through. They are still very timid, but breathtakingly loving and affectionate, once they get used to being handled. They just cuddle in almost like they are trying to get inside you. Some of the friskier ones actually dig on our sweatshirts to try and make a bed. They seem almost calmer out of their cages than in them, strange for a puppy mill dog that has only known a cage. After the initial fear wears off, you can feel their bodies just melting into you. A few have even fallen asleep while sitting outside in the warm sun, wrapped in a towel and held by a volunteer.

We have at least one dog in active labor tonight. She went home with one of the volunteer vets to the immense relief of all the volunteers. They were going to spend the night with her, but we were concerned what we would do if she ran into problems. The moms are in such poor condition, they are only having single pups. We lost a few of the newborn puppies yesterday and today. The many on-site vets are doing everything they can, but some of the pups are so weak and fragile they just don’t have any fight in them. It seems like the pregnant mothers are the friendliest. They are almost frantic in their cages, but when we open the door they jump into our laps and snuggle in close for attention. I wonder if they’re worried? They have been pregnant many times and may have had some complications during some of the births, and I don’t imagine anyone was there to help them. I keep telling them this is the last time they will have to do this. Poor girls.

Well, they are at last all tucked in, fed, safe and warm for tonight. That in itself is a good day's work for the volunteers and me. We can go home, get some sleep and get up to take care of them tomorrow. Three hundred is A LOT of dogs!!!!

The smell of success

Submitted by EARS volunteer Tereza Marks (pictured)

Wow, what a tiring day. This is my third day here. I got here Friday afternoon and was tired after just a few hours but now I am extremely tired. It is a lot of hard work. Many of us are complaining that our thighs and legs and backs hurt as we have cleaned lots of cages and some are sitting on the floor. This afternoon we finally finished getting everyone seen by the veterinarians. I am sure that the vets are quite tired also; after all, they did see about 300 dogs and puppies.

I have never seen so many matted dogs covered in waste. It is quite sad. These dogs are getting their cages cleaned twice a day, which they probably have never experienced before. We also started getting the worst of them groomed today. What a difference a haircut makes! They are actually starting to look like poodles, Maltese and Yorkies again.

I have primarily been working on the maternity ward. I have cleaned up after a lot of poopy puppies. They are so adorable though. I can only hope that they all find nice homes where they are spoiled rotten. It is difficult not to get attached to some of them. I think everyone has their favorite dog or puppy.

The not-so-great-thing is how we smell at the end of the day. A bunch of us went out to dinner last night after working at the temporary shelter all day. The manager keep coming over to talk to us and the waiter didn’t seem to want to get too close. We were joking that our smell had run off the customers at nearby tables.

Although we are tired and don’t smell too good, I think we all are happy to be here to make a difference!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A strange quiet

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN emergency services manager

I’m sitting on a very cold slab of concrete between boxes and boxes and boxes of PetSmart Charities supplies. It’s the only (relatively) quiet place I can find to get some work done. We have many people here, trying to get the dogs situated, processed, documented, fed, cleaned, warm, etc. HSUS, PetSmart Charities and UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers are hard at work getting these poor dogs cared for. With over 300 animals in the temporary shelter, the work is never done.

These guys have the usual (and I almost cringe at that word, because it makes it sound normal for animals to be in this condition) maladies for puppy mill dogs. Extreme matting, loss of fur, horrible ear and eye infections, lacerations, open wounds, and the list goes on and on. Many of the dogs are so matted in the back they are unable to eliminate, something volunteers are hard at work to rectify. Seems like such a strange thing to be a priority.

Almost every dog has visible ribs, vertebrae, hip bones. The tartar on their teeth is the worst I’ve seen (the vets feel the same way). Most have tartar all the way across their teeth, so you can’t even see the individual teeth, just a big block of grey/green tartar. The rehabilitation on these dogs will be extensive, but luckily none of this is permanent (even though it was ALL preventable).

Some seem to be happy and accepting of our attention, but so many of them are just quiet. It’s a strange quiet. As we examine them they don’t struggle or look at us. They seem to just accept their fate, that we are going to do whatever we are going to do.

Many of the volunteers have noticed this and started spending individual time with certain dogs. They wrap them in a blanket and carry them around for a few hours, try and get them to eat something, just giving them special one-on-one attention. After this special treatment, many of the dogs begin to actually look at us. Some even wag their tail a little. I think they were/are depressed, just existing. They all have heavy chains around their necks (yes, even the Chihuahua puppies) with a USDA number on it. They look like auction animals or livestock, not pets or companions. The dogs are torn between being terrified of us and curiosity.

We are all still very weary after Friday's 18-hour day, sore and creaky, but still moving. These guys really, really, really need us. I am so grateful to Wayne County Animal Control for their diligent work over the past year. Somebody is going to absolutely LOVE each one of these dogs and these dogs are going to LOVE them back. Thank goodness they are in our care.