Friday, September 17, 2010

Animals rescued from hoarding: One volunteer's perspective

I volunteer with an incredible group, United Animal Nations that rescues animals in crisis – natural disasters, hoarding situations or puppy mills.  On August 31, my sister Jeanne and I deployed to the small town of Baker, Montana (pop. 1,700) to assist with a dog rescue from a hoarding situation.  The first evening, all of the volunteers gathered for a dinner to get acquainted.  It was an amazing feeling to be in a room of 20 strangers, yet knowing we all already had something in common and a mission to fulfill.

Please continue to this personal blog post by EARS volunteer Marsha Steckling of Boulder, Colorado to read the rest of her story and see some great photos!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rescued Montana dogs settling in at Colorado shelter

Today we received some photos and an update from EARS volunteer Marsha Steckling, who visited five  of the Montana dogs transferred to the Longmont Humane Society in Longmont, Colorado.

Marsha reports that:

"The dogs were still pretty frightened and shy but showing some good signs. One of the dogs licked the hand of the behaviorist in charge of them and even expressed a tail wag! The behaviorist, Sarah, is incredibly patient and loving and has a great understanding of feral, shy dogs. They will work as long as it takes to rehab these dogs and will find them the right homes."

Check out the photos below!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

EARS gives Montana dogs a second chance

Submitted by UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies

As with all the others, this deployment brought us many challenges as well as successes. From the can opener that took an engineering degree to make it work, to tricky dogs who refused to stay in their kennels and found various ways to get out and run, frolic and play a one-sided game of chase, to dogs who had never set foot outside of the attic – let alone felt the touch of human hands. The one thing that continually stood out to me was the volunteers' kindness toward the animals and to each other.

These were not your run-of-the-mill “neglected” dogs. These guys were taken care of, but with the inevitable limitations of what only one person can do with 100 dogs. Many seemed friendly, but would not allow us to touch them. This all came from fear of the unknown, but the volunteers took that in stride and showed the utmost patience and compassion for these animals. While calmly communicating with each other, backing each other up and spotting one another, the volunteers cared for these animals like they had never been cared for before. Cleaning their crates or even feeding thoroughly traumatized some of these dogs. The volunteers worked together as a team and spoke softly, moved slowly, and even sang to the dogs. That EARS magic did its trick.

After a day or two of being calmly and quietly cared for, many of these dogs started to show interest, curiosity, bravery and even affection. They would come toward the front of the kennel and give a few tentative kisses to the hands that fed them. Some allowed pets and scratches, some even rolled over for belly rubs. These small victories were shared among the team of red shirts with quiet rejoices and positive affirmations to the dogs. These were not the same animals who came into our shelter only days before. These dogs were interested in becoming family pets, an integral part of someone’s life.

The UAN team gently coerced the timid dogs to have a bite to eat, take a drink of clean water, accept a pat. The result was a new faith in people, a realization that our intentions were good. We were able to see these dogs show trust as they stood shivering on the vet table, tolerating thorough medical exams while the UAN volunteers held and comforted them. When we began loading the dogs up to be transported to rescue groups and shelters, many of them who were previously unhandlable were easily lifted from their crates and carried to the rig. The resilience of these animals continues to amaze me; going from knowing and trusting only one person their whole lives, to trusting an entire team of red shirts, so thoroughly and knowing we were there to help.

The environment these dogs came from was utterly indescribable, even to the veterans who have seen it all. Feces lay two- to three-feet thick on the floors and counter tops. The majority of these dogs had never set foot outside of the house or a particular room. The owner had given everything to his dogs and had nothing more than the shirt on his back, literally. These dogs were loved, but had never received medical care and were completely unsocialized. To see them go from frightened, unsure, trembling dogs to romping with each other in large kennels and then cuddling up to the volunteers made all of the hard work, sore backs and long days worth it. The dogs did not have a chance to become pampered pets in the environment they came from. Now with the help of the UAN volunteers, these dogs will receive that second chance they so deserve. Thank you to everyone for helping to make this happen.

The dogs were sent to the following shelters and rescue groups for continued socialization and eventual adoption:
Photos courtesy of EARS volunteers Ruth Koehler and Marsha Steckling.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Montana Dogs Make the News Again

Nearly 100 Dogs Hoarded in Home Rescued (article and video), KMGH, Denver

Great photos of the rescued Montana dogs

Many thanks to EARS volunteer Marsha Steckling from Boulder, Colorado for these wonderful pictures.

Marsha comforts a mama dog
while the vet examines her puppies.
Lloyd Koehler of Garrison, Montana
comforts a frightened dog.
A puppy being examined by the vet.
A dog being examined by the vet.
A dog getting examined by the
vet while Lloyd Koehler comforts her.

Remaining Montana dogs bound for Colorado

Submitted by Ruth Koehler of Western Montana

September 5, 2010

Good news last night. Shelters in Colorado will be taking the rest of the dogs. They will be loaded on the van first thing Sunday morning and head out for their new homes in Colorado. There are some great dogs in there, and some that will require a lot of TLC. Thank Heaven for large shelters that have the money and the time to spend to assure a great foster or forever home placement.

UAN started with eight volunteers for this deployment and ended up with three for the last couple of hours on Sunday. This has been a truly amazing experience for my husband and I and we can’t wait to go again. We got home Sunday night after a 500-mile drive, still in Montana! UAN volunteer Marsha Steckling sent us some pictures today and said that 15 of the “Denver Dogs” are at shelters very close to her home so she and her sister, Jeanne, also an EARS volunteer, are going to go visit tomorrow!

From the field: Day 4 in Montana

Submitted by Ruth Koehler of Western Montana

September 4, 2010

Things continue to improve. HSUS staffers are still looking for shelters to take large numbers of dogs. Twenty-four dogs are going on the truck today to shelters across Montana. Four of those are going to the Montana Women’s Prison for their dog training program. The four dogs were chosen because they were the most timid and will need a lot of one-on-one care to become socialized enough to be adoptable.

After the truck left we continued to do clean up chores. There are always plenty of crates and kennels to be cleaned. The dogs are amazing. Considering the filth they were raised in, now that they are living in clean kennels many of them appear to want to stay clean and are housebreaking themselves! They are also becoming socialized at an amazing rate. We cannot take them out and play with them, but they are almost all starting to eat well, and they will come to the front of the cage and seek attention when approached.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hope and a better future

Submitted by Ruth Koehler of Western Montana

Day three of the Wibaux, Montana dog rescue has been much quieter. All of the dogs had their veterinary exams yesterday. Several mothers-to-be were identified and moved to private quarters. Today’s activities have consisted of feeding, cleaning and socializing with the dogs.

Today, many of the dogs are starting to respond less fearfully to the volunteers. These animals have never been outside, walked on a leash or responded to a human being prior to yesterday. The move has been extremely stressful for them and UAN and HSUS staff and volunteers are trying to maintain a quiet, peaceful environment to allow them to recover.

HSUS and UAN staff are working diligently to find shelters and rescue groups that can take the dogs for foster care and adoption. Montana Women’s Prison at Billings will be taking some of the dogs for their inmate dog training program, while others will be transported to groups across the country.

From the field: Day 2 in Montana

Submitted by EARS volunteer Ruth Koehler of Western Montana

September 2, 2010

Yesterday, UAN and HSUS staff removed 96 medium sized dogs from a home in rural eastern Montana. At the end of an extremely long day, all of the dogs were safely sheltered at the Fallon County Fairgrounds in Baker. Although they were removed from squalid conditions with 82 of the dogs living in the house with the owner, the animals appear to be well-fed and in reasonably good health.

Eight UAN volunteers are assisting HSUS staff on this second day, cleaning, feeding and carrying the dogs to the veterinarians for their first-ever veterinary care. The dogs, who are all descendants of the owner’s three original dogs, are a German shepherd cross type. In spite of a lack of socialization and having spent most, if not all, of their lives locked in a house, most of the dogs are quite friendly and are quickly adjusting to the new care and attention they are receiving from UAN volunteers.

It's common for people to become overwhelmed with more animals than they can care for. For more information on hoarding, please visit

More news from Eastern Montana rescue

Seized dogs getting care, Billings Gazette

Dogs rescued in Wibaux,

More than 90 dogs removed from Wibaux-area home, Great Falls Tribune

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Images from Eastern Montana

Two of the nearly 100 dogs seized at a home in Wibaux, Montana yesterday.

Volunteers are working to remove the dogs from the Wibaux property and bring them to a temporary shelter in Baker at the Fallon County fairgrounds.

Photos this post courtesy of The HSUS.

News coverage of Eastern Montana rescue

Here is some news coverage of the seizure of nearly 100 dogs in Wibaux, Montana on September 1:

100 dogs seized from Wibaux home, Billings Gazette

Dogs Seized in Eastern Montana, KULR-TV

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

EARS volunteers return to Eastern Montana

United Animal Nations (UAN) is leading operations to shelter nearly 100 dogs removed from an overrun property in Wibaux, Montana this morning. UAN volunteers joined the Wibaux County Sheriff’s Department and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to remove the animals after neighbors raised concerns over the unsanitary living conditions and substandard care of the dogs.

Please read more about this response in our press release.