Monday, August 31, 2009

Puppy mill rescue in Wilson, North Carolina

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

United Animal Nations (UAN) is now here in North Carolina, caring for and tracking animals originally from a puppy mill who had been dispersed throughout the state.

You can read more about the seizure in this news article or watch some news coverage from the temporary shelter.

Over the past three days we have taken in more than 200 dogs and transported about 180 of them out to shelters and rescue groups for foster care and adoption.

Many of the dogs come in for a brief stay, vet check, some photos and right out into rescue again. It’s been one of the strangest deployments. Dogs still came in tonight, and rescue groups are already lined up to take them out tomorrow. Our population has probably never topped 100 at any given time. This of course, gives UAN Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers time to raise the bar even higher when it comes to animal care and assistance to local law enforcement. The dogs are very comfy in their cages, with fresh water that is rapidly refilled every time they take a sip, clean cages, fans blowing on them (always on the dogs, while the volunteers are sweating buckets) and regular meals. We barely have time to get to know them before they go out again, which is actually a very good thing.

Even though this is a puppy mill deployment, it feels somewhat like a disaster response. The situation keeps changing, information comes from multiple directions and we are never quite sure what to expect. Par for the course for the trained UAN volunteers who are just rolling with it and dealing with every urgent situation that comes up. “We have 30 dogs arriving in ten minutes and they all need large crates!” “Wait, it’s only 10 dogs.” “Now it’s 17 dogs and 3 parrots!” Parrots? Where are we going to put parrots?? Okay, large crate, find some sticks for perches, air flow, cover with light sheet….ready for the parrots. “Oh, the parrots aren’t coming here, they went straight to rescue. Now we have 17 rabbits coming in.” Rabbits?? Where should we put rabbits?? Okay, small crates, newspaper, make a list for a PetSmart run…. “Rabbits aren’t coming here -- it’s too hot.” Phew, okay no rabbits. Then a truck pulls up and the driver tells us he has 17 rabbits. Ack! Finish putting up the small crates, get ice bags with towels in each crate…what do rabbits eat? Change the PetSmart list. Uh oh, the baby rabbits can squeeze through the cage bars. The resourceful volunteers quickly made cardboard barriers around the bottom so they couldn’t get out anymore. I hopped in the car to pick up rabbit supplies and a truck pulled in at the same time to take the rabbits to rabbit rescue. Phew, again.

And so it goes. Meanwhile our three calm, cool, collected and oh-so-organized volunteers Tereza Marks, Jasmine Holsinger and Catherine Fagan sat at the busy intake table following every move. Number 152 is going to row D, cage three and came from such- and-such address. Number 152 is now leaving with XYZ rescue…..and even cross checking it with an excel spreadsheet on the computer. I’ve seen daily operating shelters that are not this organized. Needless to say, the Wilson County Sheriff's Office is in awe of the abilities of the volunteers. They have said over and over, “We could never have done this without you.”

As always, we are all happy to be here, knowing these dogs who so desperately needed help are moving on to much brighter futures.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Puppy mill dogs moving on

Here are some of the shelters and rescue groups that have taken in dogs rescued from a puppy mill in Kaufman County, Texas on August 11:

• SPCA of Texas
• Operation Kindness (Carrolton, TX)
• Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake
• PAWS Patrol (Mesquite, TX)
• Poodle Rescue of Houston
• Collin County Humane Society (McKinney, TX)

These organizations will evaluate the dogs and make them available for adoption.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tears of happiness

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

Things are finally starting to wind down at the temporary shelter. The dogs are quickly and happily being carried to the transport vehicles to start their new lives. The volunteers are in tears, but they are tears of happiness to see our guys move on to the next and better phase of their lives.

So many of these animals have touched our hearts. Many of them were in critical condition when they arrived, but with the skill and expertise of the UAN volunteers, along with loving care, most are now well on their way to being healthy. Some are thoroughly thriving.

One girl who really got to all of us was Lulu. Lulu is an older dachshund who was so pregnant she could not move and could barely breathe. The first thing everyone asked at the morning briefings was, “Did she have her babies yet?” Lulu had constant care and comfort as the volunteers cheered her on. We finally got approval to send her out for an emergency c-section. Imagine our surprise, relief and a brief flash of frustration when the vet called back shortly to tell us she was not pregnant. She had an abdominal infection that was causing a massive fluid buildup in her abdomen. They immediately drained her stomach and she is a changed dog.

She arrived back at the shelter to smiles and snaps (clapping gets the dogs riled up, so we have resorted to snaps instead of loud cheers). We got her comfortable in a cushy bed with some food and lots of water, and watched her turn into the dog that was hiding inside. She began doing the front-foot tap dance every time we walked by. Seeing her doggie smile and wagging tail made our day. Lulu was so incredibly uncomfortable when she came in; we are so pleased to see her feeling so much better.

Another of my favorites went out to rescue today. Regina, a senior two-and-a-half-pound Chihuahua caught my eye on the first day of regular shelter operations. One of the volunteers asked if she could add a blanket to her cage because she was shivering and felt cold. I had the vet take a look at her and found nothing seriously wrong, other than years and years of neglect (and being a Chihuahua).

I began checking on Regina often, making sure she was warm enough with her blankie, but not too hot. She wasn’t eating so I was growing concerned. I finally looked in her mouth to find just three teeth. We immediately switched her to watered-down soft food and she dove right in. As I watched her eat, the food kept falling out of her mouth. I hand fed her as often as I could, but was worried she wasn’t eating enough. She went to our “hospital” area and the vet determined she had a non-recent nasal bone fracture that never healed, most likely from having no other option and trying to stay alive by eating hard kibble. The vet said he’s seen it before in massive cruelty cases, but it was definitely not common.

From then on, she received a gruel-like mixture of tasty wet food and she was able to eat very happily and very, very often. We set her up in a bed made of hospital sheets and a litter box and she was obviously pleased. She napped and rested, and when we came by to visit she’d flop her tail and smile, but was always hesitant to leave her comfy new bed. I know someone out there is going to be the luckiest person when they adopt Regina. She has so much gratitude for all who cared for her, and the expression on her face is priceless.

The UAN team on this deployment was amazing. Representatives from every organization that participated commented on how great the EARS volunteers are. Dedicated, solid, work horses, passionate and fantastic were words I heard often while listening to folks describe the crew. I, again, am so honored to have met and worked with so many compassionate people who so easily made caring for these animals their top priority. Whether it was hauling garbage; setting up fans; providing lunch for the volunteers; cleaning poop; bathing dogs; helping the vets; or all of the many, many other tasks it took to care for these dogs, each person was invaluable. The spirit, trust and the happy look in the dog’s eyes just proves what a difference each and every person made.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Victory Day!

Want to learn more about the court victory that set 550 dogs rescued from a Kaufman County, Texas puppy mill on the path to better lives?

Watch this video, featuring many of UAN's EARS volunteers, produced by The HSUS:

A bad hair day turns good

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

After our amazingly good day Monday, the volunteers and animals are still in a celebratory mood. Chatting mingles with barking and yips to make the sound of a happy shelter. We are getting ready to say "good-bye" to some of our new furry friends and telling them all about the great life that awaits them.

No matter how many deployments we go on, and regardless of the number of dogs, each of us gets suckered in by at least one. Tears flow as the volunteers head out, knowing their new friend is going on to bigger and better things. I of course, have been besotted by Phyllis Diller.

Phyllis caught my eye when she was coming in. She had some serious matting issues, causing her to look like she was having a very bad hair day. The bewildered look on her face just added to her charm for me. After looking closer I realized she was so matted on the top of her head, it was causing her hair to stand straight up. She didn’t move around very much and didn’t show much interest in the activity around her. I assumed she was a senior.

Yesterday, after Phyllis was shaved down to the skin, we had trouble identifying her among the three dogs in her kennel. Two huddled shyly in the back of the crate and one crazy puppy was bouncing around at the front of the cage, trying to lick our fingers and anything else she could get a hold of. Only by checking her ID collar were we able to confirm that was our Phyllis. She can’t stop moving now that the painful mats that attached her legs to her abdomen have been removed. In honor of her big hair, the groomers left a bit extra on top.

Seeing a dog go from being quiet, scared and miserable to bouncing, jumping and happy inspires me. All she needed was some attention and a hair cut, and she was in heaven. We can tell she just can’t contain her happiness. She has been dubbed one of our many therapy dogs: the dogs who remind us why we are here. We have no problem working long hours in the dirt, poop, heat and humidity when there is a reward like Phyllis’s amazing recovery.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another win for the animals!

The woman accused of operating a puppy mill in Kaufman County, Texas will lose custody of the hundreds of animal in her care, a judge ruled today. Volunteers and staff with UAN, The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake will now begin transporting the animals from the temporary shelter where they've been for the past week to rescue groups and shelters for foster care and adoption.

See news coverage of the verdict.

And here are more details from UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies (pictured):

The animals won! Transport for the moms and babies will begin tonight. The volunteers are ecstatic and I am as well. What a long, hard week, but oh so worth it. To be able to tell all of these dogs, without a doubt, that they will never have to go back to the miserable lives they led at the puppy mill is enough reward for all of us.

I can hear the dogs all barking and yipping from outside the barn. I think they are feeding off our excitement. We’re wrapping up feeding and cleaning but no one wants to leave yet.

The dedication of the UAN volunteers once again has shined through and is obvious to all other agencies involved. So many of these people had never worked in any type of animal rescue, and I think we’ve converted the majority of the residents of Kaufman County. I was hugged and thanked by numerous people I had never met before when we were leaving the courthouse after the verdict came down.

Everyone was crying and clapping … one of the greatest feelings ever. Seeing the dogs go from scared, quiet, dirty and miserable to happy, yipping normal dogs has once again made up a million times over for the sweat, the poop, the aching muscles and exhaustion. I smell worse than I ever have before in my life, but there is nowhere else I would rather be.

I’m looking forward to telling the stories and sharing the photos of some of the many successes that came out of this rescue. For now I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Stay tuned for more and THANK YOU all for your support.

Everything is bigger in Texas

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

We have been here for over a week and working long, hot and sweaty days to give these animals the exceptional care they deserve. Our hard work is paying off; many of the dogs who arrived in critical condition are improving dramatically. The UAN volunteers are doing the norm – showing what amazing, overwhelmingly awe-inspiring and incredible people they are. The dogs are now receiving way beyond basic care. We have moved on to baths, cool towels, toys, and constant fresh water and clean cages. I have started threatening to use catch poles to get the volunteers to take breaks.

The generosity and support of the community has been wonderful. We were well on our way to what the long-timers refer to as our “secondary disaster” -- figuring out what to do with the tons and tons of donations coming in. We got the word out that we had all of the volunteers and supplies we could ever use, and now it is under control. How great is that? We have to worry about getting too much help. They say everything is bigger in Texas and once again it’s proven to be true. The compassion this community has shown for these animals is a perfect example. Texans definitely have big hearts.

We’ve had the Commissioners’ Office, Sheriff’s Department, local rescue groups and anyone else you can think of helping out at the shelter, supplying donations and taking care of the volunteers. When folks ask, “What do you need?” I have a hard time coming up with anything.

We are all waiting on pins and needles to see how the hearing for the owner of the puppy mill goes today. The dogs have settled in nicely and are very comfortable, but we can’t wait to get them started on the road to their new lives. They may finally learn what it means to be a dog, not just a commodity.

Please keep your fingers crossed and send good thoughts our way. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Catching our breath

Submitted by Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies (pictured at top)

It’s day six at the emergency shelter in Kaufman Texas and I am just now finding a moment to sit down and let you all know what has been happening here.

Sunday and Monday were spent setting up our temporary shelter in a livestock building utilizing PetSmart Charities equipment and supplies, and preparing to take in the animals who so desperately need help. With temperatures near 100 degrees, mandatory water breaks were in place and all of the volunteers watched out for each other, making sure everyone was drinking water and Gatorade and forcing breaks on each other.

Almost the entire UAN team was requested to go to the seizure location. We have animal control, law enforcement, federal evidence and documentation taking, and many, many other skills to offer the team in the field. After 12 hours of loading animals in 100-degree heat, we finally had everyone safely and comfortably in their crates in the temporary shelter.

Since then, the volunteers have been working hard to settle the dogs in, get them vet checked, fed, watered and relaxed. We’ve seen them go from being utterly confused, terrified, in pain and suffering to being clean, relaxed and happy dogs. Many of the newborn puppies and mothers were in very poor condition when they came in and caused for some concern for all of us. Yesterday, after receiving fluids, calories, comfort and much care from the vets and volunteers, many of the pups started perking up and acting like puppies. Some of the moms who were not producing milk have actually starting to produce again, so we no longer need to bottle feed their

Personalities are starting to shine through and as usual, the volunteers are beginning to discover their favorites. The boy dog who had a collar identifying him as Laura has been renamed to Larry. The bouncing Pomeranian in the back of Row D is now Rowdy Girl. The pup who was originally suspected of having parvo but has since been declared healthy is named Oliver.

We are still awaiting the outcome of the legal case against the owner of the dogs and keeping our fingers crossed that it will be in favor of the animals. Until then, we will continue to work hard, stay hydrated and give these animals the best care they have ever received.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Light at the end of the tunnel

Nearly 600 dogs and puppies tasted hope on Tuesday when they were freed from a puppy mill in Kaufman County, Texas. A team of Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers was there to help the animals settle into their new quarters at a temporary shelter and give them better care than they had ever known.

Read more.

See video footage from the raid.

See video footage of the misery that puppy mill "breeding stock"endure.

Watch local news coverage.

Read a newspaper article about the tremendous community support for the resuce effort.

Photos this post courtesy of The HSUS.