The staff of The Humane Society of the United States’ must move quickly in situations where animals are suffering from serious neglect, abuse, abandonment or extremely poor conditions that endanger their well-being. In 2010, The HSUS worked with law enforcement to rescue more than 12,000 animals from animal fighting operations and situations of desperate cruelty.
A recent hoarding case in Alabama presented us and our Emergency Shelter Placement Partner program with a major challenge. We were contacted and asked to help with a hoarding situation – what we discovered were 44 chow/retriever mix dogs who had developed into a wild pack in a hoarder’s backyard. We were horrified to find dogs who had not been provided socialization, veterinary care, and had not been spayed or neutered. The dogs, who appeared to be inbred, were being kept alive with a minimum of food and water, but were turning on each other. Some dogs had already been seriously injured and some had even been killed. We had to act fast to prevent any further tragedy, so we worked in partnership with other adoption agencies and partners and were able to remove the dogs and then disperse them to a variety of shelters and rescue groups so that those able to be rehabilitated and adopted out could be.
This particular population of dogs is the type that is very difficult to place – very few people want to adopt such challenging pets, or are capable of dealing with their severe medical and behavioral issues. We knew we had to find locations for these animals, even if on a temporary basis, and we were appreciative of the help we received. With no animal shelter in the county where the dogs were seized, this was an unusually difficult process.
Some of the dogs went to a shelter in Nashville, some went to a Nashville rescue organization, some went to a rescue group in Georgia and 10 went to North Carolina. The North Carolina dogs were initially placed in a shelter in Lincoln County. The Lincoln County shelter is large, clean, has a large volunteer base and has one of the lower euthanasia rates in the state. They placed slightly over 1,000 animals last year through their rescue contacts. This provided the dogs another chance at finding homes if not adopted to the general public. The dogs would be walked every day by volunteers, getting much needed human interaction and socialization. . Allegations of problems with this shelter arose and we swiftly removed any remaining dogs to another location.
It has come to our attention that four of the dogs sent to the Lincoln Shelter were deemed unadoptable and may have been euthanized via the gas chamber method of euthanasia. This shelter did use the gas chamber as a euthanasia method, a method still used in underfunded areas of the country, but one extremely disfavored by our organization. HSUS has a long history of working to help shelters move away from gas chamber euthanasia. We have also worked to change policies at the state level in legislatures and we hope the day will come soon when the gas chamber is completely abandoned, by all shelters. We also work to end the euthanasia of healthy adoptable animals. It is deeply disturbing to us that these dogs may have been euthanized by this method and we are disappointed and saddened that we were not notified in advance so that we could look for other options for the dogs.
Under most circumstances, when rescued animals come to a shelter, the entire shelter population benefits. The resulting publicity for that shelter increases support from the local community, highlights the need for people to adopt pets and almost immediately sends more people walking through the shelter doors. All the dogs and cats at the shelter are now more likely to be adopted as a result of the spotlight these rescued dogs brought with them. We have also learned that the Lincoln County Shelter has stopped using the gas chamber as a method of euthanasia. HSUS applauds that decision and we have offered to assist with the cost of removing the gas chamber from the shelter. We are also working on legislation to ban the use of gas chambers as a method of euthanasia in the state of Alabama, and hope to enable more shelters to make that switch in the coming year. North Carolina continues to move forward with individual counties discontinuing the use of gas chambers.
We are following up on the rest of the dogs and will continue to do so as they are cared for and, we hope, adopted out. Our Emergency Shelter Placement Partner program will move on to the next rescue – as sadly, there is always another on the horizon. To find out more about the program and fill out an application at www.animalsheltering.org/espp
Being involved in animal rescue and placement can be heart wrenching work – it is almost always stressful, fast-paced, and can invite criticism if the outcomes are not all positive. It would be easier not to be involved – to stick to areas that we can better control the outcomes and where we have less variables and more oversight. If we did that, however, then we wouldn’t be able to help thousands of animals who are suffering, living in squalor and who are at great risk, every day. We accept the criticism that comes with this work – no one is perfect, but we’re certainly trying with everything we have to make a positive difference in the lives of these animals.
We were horrified to find dogs who had not been provided socialization, veterinary care, and had not been spayed or neutered.
Of course we don’t know to what extent the dogs lacked in socialization and vet care but in my experience, this sentence could apply to many dogs in rural areas. It could apply to my own dogs. We get very few visitors and tend to be homebodies. Our dogs don’t go out unless there is a pressing veterinary need. They do receive vet care but I can’t afford to provide things like yearly well pet checks and such. If a dog appears healthy, he generally doesn’t go to the vet. And there is a shortage of no/low cost spay-neuter services with transportation options available in rural southern areas so it’s not unusual to find intact dogs. Again, some of my own dogs are intact.
The dogs, who appeared to be inbred, were being kept alive with a minimum of food and water, but were turning on each other. Some dogs had already been seriously injured and some had even been killed.
The only photo I’ve seen taken at the so-called “hoarder’s” property is this one:
You can’t sum up an entire situation from a single photo. But in the absence of any other evidence – and we all know that historically, HSUS is not shy about spreading photos and videos of dogs who look neglected – I will give my opinion on this one picture. It appears to show dogs who were doing a lot better than merely “being kept alive with a minimum of food and water”. They look adequately fed, clean and reportedly 43 of the 44 were negative for heartworm. Further, they don’t look like a “wild pack” in this one photo. If you were to pull up with a huge van load of HSUS staff and take a photo of my dogs at the gate, I fear it might not come off so well. The barking and leaping would be out of control and believe me, they can sustain this indefinitely. After awhile, one dog might redirect his anxiety toward another and fur might start flying (although we wouldn’t have serious injuries or death, just fur). If Randi was in the group at the time the photo was taken you’d possibly see a dog with poo smeared on her face and neck. (Yeah, she likes to do that.) In addition, post spay surgery, her coat turned into one of those that picks up everything – sticks, pine needles, leaves, stray wire – whatever is on the ground. So she might look as if she’s never been groomed in her life. The reality would be that, while I’m not going to win any awards for my grooming, I do it. Randi’s appearance notwithstanding. Again, I hope no one who knows dogs would be “horrified” at my pack, but I can imagine how someone who doesn’t know dogs might get the wrong impression. Also, for the record, I’m not a hoarder. I just have a small pack of dogs, live in a rural area and don’t have a lot of disposable income.
We knew we had to find locations for these animals, even if on a temporary basis, and we were appreciative of the help we received. With no animal shelter in the county where the dogs were seized, this was an unusually difficult process.
But HSUS didn’t even ask for help locally beyond using a local humane society as a staging area and leaving 3 dogs there. The Marshall Co ACO never heard from HSUS nor did the area no kill shelters or members of the local community. Surely they would have helped, had they been given the chance. And helping the dogs locally would have had many benefits, including educating the area ACOs and the public as well as not adding to the burdens of other rescue groups in the south.
Some of the dogs went to a shelter in Nashville, some went to a Nashville rescue organization, some went to a rescue group in Georgia and 10 went to North Carolina.
This information is not entirely accurate. 10 dogs went to a shelter in Nashville, 4 dogs went to a Nashville rescue organization, 13 dogs went to two different rescue groups in GA, 10 went to NC, 3 stayed in Marshall Co, AL and 4 dogs remain unaccounted for (anyone with information on the whereabouts of those 4 dogs, please share). I wish HSUS would give out the correct details on the dispersal of the dogs so we could find out what happened to them and if any of the groups accepting the dogs need assistance. Still waiting for that to happen. Meanwhile, the Web of Sleuth forges ahead.
It is deeply disturbing to us that these dogs may have been euthanized by [gassing] and we are disappointed and saddened that we were not notified in advance so that we could look for other options for the dogs.
Did HSUS ask the Lincoln Co shelter to notify them in advance if they opted to put any of the dogs into the gas chamber? Indeed, if it is so disturbing to HSUS that dogs they “rescued” might be gassed, why leave them at a gassing facility?
We accept the criticism that comes with this work – no one is perfect, but we’re certainly trying with everything we have to make a positive difference in the lives of these animals.
*dabs tear as orchestra music swells* HSUS is trying with everything they’ve got, folks. They use your donation money to shelter pets they rescue until they get adopted – even if it takes all $100 million of their annual budget. They send out Adopt Me notices on all these rescued pets to their millions of supporters in an effort to find homes. They leap tall buildings in a single bound. Oh, wait – scratch all that. They don’t do any of that stuff. But they got a mean spin machine. Credit where credit is due.
For those wanting to know the reality of where the AL 44 stand, here’s a summary:
10 dogs at PAWS Atlanta in GA, all remain in quarantine. I asked if they were in need of any donations for the AL dogs and received this response from Laura:
Thank you so much! We could use some extra financial assistance for the dogs. We did not expect to quarantine them for so long so it would help us pay for their up-keep. We could also use wet/canned food to hide meds in. It cannot be the chunks or slivers, but we can use the kind you can make little meat balls out of. The Alabama dogs are on a strict Science Diet Adult dry diet if someone was interested in donating food instead of money. Anyone interested in donating can go to our website through this link:
If they make a general donation they can specify that they would like their money to go towards the Alabama dogs.
Thank you again for all your help!
3 dogs at Bliss Animal Haven in Loganville, GA, all available for adoption
3 dogs at New Leash on Life in Wilson Co, TN, including Sassy (D10-496) who is up for adoption
2 dogs at a humane society in Marshall Co, AL, both up for adoption
3 dogs at Lincoln Co Animal Services in NC – per shelter records, all 3 were listed as “sick”. They were Murray, Harry and dog #38805.
1 dog at a humane society in Marshall Co, AL – killed due to unsocial behavior
10 dogs dropped at the Nashville Humane Association in TN. None listed on their website. On their FAQ page, they state that pets in their care are killed “only if it is necessary due to illness or behavior problems”. At least some of the original 44 dogs reportedly had behavioral problems. I was unable to get any information about the dogs in a phone call.
4 dogs transferred from Lincoln Co Animal Services in NC to Humane Society of Charlotte (Read an update from a commenter stating she is Merry’s foster mom here!). Multiple inquiries to HS of Charlotte have gone unanswered.
3 dogs transferred from Lincoln Co Animal Services to Charlotte-Mecklenburg shelter. Their kill rate is about 65%. 2 of the 3 are listed on Char-Meck’s site – Daisy (ID#A797513) and an unnamed male (A797514). The 3rd dog was never listed as far as I know. (Searches for pets with ID #s A797512 or A797514 come up empty.)
1 puppy escaped from her New Leash on Life foster home in TN and hasn’t been found.
4 dogs remain unaccounted for and I’m still looking for them. Thank you to those who have assisted in the search.