Friday, April 23, 2010

Relief, joy and hope for 221 puppy mill dogs

Submitted by EARS volunteer Debbie Ferguson of Kildeer, Illinois

Hello to all from Sparta, Tennessee, just 90 minutes from the Tennessee horse rescue UAN’s EARS volunteers participated in a few short months ago. This rescue is quite different from that one however, as we are not dealing with horses weighing 800+ pounds, but rather tiny dogs, most in the five- to ten- pound range, primarily poodles and terriers. UAN was asked to assist in this puppy mill rescue by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the White County Sheriff’s Office.

Five UAN volunteers met with The HSUS team in Nashville at 5:30 this morning to debrief, and then headed for Sparta, while the other UAN team members stayed in Nashville to set up the temporary shelter.

As the team members exited their cars and walked toward the small home, the smell of feces and urine was emanating from within, and the barking of the dogs could be heard almost immediately. Several shy but friendly dogs were loose on the property, and there was also barking coming from two small structures set up behind the house.

Upon entering the house, the stench was so strong that the volunteers were forced to wear masks. Feces and urine covered the floor and the countertops could not be seen because of the clutter covering them. Cages were lined up around the room, most with multiple dogs in them, and there were anywhere from 10 to 20 dogs loose in each of the seven rooms of the house. The dogs were dirty, matted and very scared of the new faces and voices entering their over-crowded home. As The HSUS team began to round them up, it was clear the dogs had never been on leashes and that they had little to no social contact.

Some pushed themselves into corners trying to hide, while others very aggressively attempted to protect themselves and their home with a fierceness I never would have dreamed possible of a toy or teacup poodle. But many were carried out by the UAN and White County volunteer handlers and were tagged, checked for health issues and taken to crates for transfer to the shelter.

UAN volunteers Annemarie Kech of Flowery Branch, Georgia; Julie Rathbun of Mobile, Alabama; Jennifer Anford of Atlanta, Georgia; Mindy Watts of Nashville, Tennessee and Ryan Alford of White House, Tennessee worked tirelessly alongside The HSUS team to get the dogs out of the miserable conditions they were living in as quickly as possible.

As I write this, the dogs are being brought into the emergency shelter and placed into cages where they will receive food, water, and soon, love. Considering the traumatic day they have endured, they are unusually calm and quiet, and some are wagging their tails already.

As difficult as these rescues can be, and as much as they bring many of us to tears, there is a huge sense of relief, joy and hope when the animals acclimate to their new surroundings and learn to receive love. I will post more about the individual dogs, along with their photos, on tomorrow’s blog.

You can read more about the rescue of 221 puppy mill dogs on the UAN Web site.

Photos from top to bottom: A crate full of rescued poodles; EARS volunteer Ryan Alford of White House, Tennessee carries a rescued dog to safety; EARS volunteer Julie Rathbun of Mobile, Alabama carries a rescued dog to the transport truck bound for the emergency shelter.

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