Saturday, February 28, 2009

Best Friends Reports on Abandoned Dogs in Missouri

From Best Friends Animal Society:

Day One Complete for River Valley Rescue

As the morning sun begins to shine on the bare branches surrounding the Missouri Ozarks, the bay of a dog echoes across the fields ringing in a new day for nearly 150 abandoned dogs.

The night before, a trio of three dedicated rescue workers—Rich Crook, Best Friends field team leader; Kelli Ohrtman, Best Friends field communications officer; and Elizabeth Wainwright from the Missouri Department of Agriculture—sat huddled around a table at Ruby Tuesday’s in Southwest Missouri discussing plans to remove the dogs from the property the following morning.

An Ambitious Day

Capture. Assess. Identify. Tag and kennel. The process seems simple enough. It’s the execution of that process over 100 times in a row that complicates things. That and winning over the shy dogs that have learned nothing good comes from humans—and dealing with the occasional escape artist.

Best Friends was on site to help stabilize a situation that careened out of control after the kennel owner, who did not have a breeder’s license for his River Valley Puppies Kennels, set fire to the property after state officials arrived to take over custody of the dogs.

Working alongside Noah’s Wish, a California-based animal welfare organization dedicated exclusively to rescuing and sheltering animals in disasters, the teams spent the day wrangling and caring for dogs.

Dispersed across 100 partially fenced acres, the teams used food to attract dogs to them, traps to ensnare the more shy ones, and stealth maneuvers to sneak up on others.

Says Ohrtman, “Groups of dogs would be huddled together in a field sleeping. We would sneak up on them, put cables around their necks, they’d wake up and we lead them away.”

And if that didn’t work, a leftover quesadilla from Ruby Tuesday’s was certain to do the trick.

Sammy: Liver and White Springer Spaniel, First Time On A Leash

Curled up on a cement slab in a deep sleep, Ohrtman tiptoed up to the slumbering dog and carefully looped a leash around his neck. Having lived most of his life in a cage, the sensation of a leash was new to him, and one he did not like.

Says Ohrtman, “He stopped struggling after he realized we weren’t fighting back. Then he began to shake, flopped over and froze.” Team members gently pet the dog and talked in soothing voices to try and reassure the terrified animal. Then ever so gently, they tipped him into a kennel, took off the leash at which point he got up and was fine.

Sissy: German Short Hair, Pregnant and Emaciated

Sissy is a young liver and white German shorthaired pointer. She’s carrying a sagging belly full of unborn puppies on a too skinny body that shows every rib.

Sissy found herself contained after she wandered into a trap in search of food. After being transferred to a kennel, Sissy surprised her captures by bolting out the kennel door as it was opened to provide fresh water. And even though her antics required workers to chase her down for a second time, Ohrtman remarks, “She’s very sweet. And who could blame her for not wanting to go back into a cage.”

No Name: Black and White Springer Spaniel, Possible Health Complication

Just as the team was ready to call it a night, a Best Friends team member stumbled upon a black and white bundled curled into the corner of an old barn. “We’re worried about this one,” she says. “The poor thing has a large lump on the side of her face. And she was so easy to catch—scared, but very gentle and sweet.”

Day One Ends, Day Two On The Horizon

And so, the first day of wrangling dogs comes to a close. To be repeated again tomorrow. The crew left with approximately 50 dogs still on site and yet to be captured.

Says Ohrtman, “It’s a really chaotic and tragic situation.” The burned down buildings are still smoldering. And the dogs are covered in grey ash.

She adds, “Ninety percent of these dogs are friendly. They just need to be in a safe place and they’ll come around just fine.”

Integral to the success of the rescue effort are the organizations who are taking the dogs to adopt them out. Some of these groups include:

• No More Homeless Pets, KC
• English Springer Rescue of America
• Central Missouri Humane Society in Columbia

How You Can Help

• Volunteers are not needed at the puppy mill site, but people interested in helping can make a donation for the care of the dogs by visiting our Facebook Cause.

• Never purchase a dog over the internet without inspecting the property from where the dogs were raised.

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