THE WASHINGTON POST – Lori Carlson arrived for work at the Licking County Humane Society one morning to an alarming phone call from a police officer with the Newark, Ohio, animal control division.
A probation officer visited a condemned house on the morning of July 22 looking for somebody who had violated probation, and the officer discovered dozens of small dogs – all Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus – living in squalor with three people. They appeared to be hoarders, the officer told her.
All the dogs were infested with fleas, and many appeared to have serious skin infections, he told Carlson. None had been spayed or neutered, and multiple litters of puppies had been found covered in feces, urine and garbage.
Carlson, executive director of the shelter, said the officer told her the animals needed to be rescued right away.
“I sent out all three of my Humane Society agents, and we soon learned that wasn’t enough,” she said.
“At first, we were told there were about 30 dogs,” Carlson said. “But that number grew to 50. And then after that, we found out there were actually 80.”
“Our agents had to crawl through debris to find all of the puppies and get them with the correct mom,” she added.
The smell inside the home was unbearable, Carlson said, noting that it took her employees and animal control officers five hours and multiple trips to get the dogs transferred to the Humane Society shelter.
The dogs ranged in age from one week to 12 years old, she said.
“The people in the house had no idea how many dogs were there – they’d been breeding and multiplying for a long time,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of rescues over the years, but never one like this.”
It was the largest rescue in the shelter’s history, Carlson said.
Once the dogs had been bathed and treated by a veterinarian, the Humane Society staff faced a new dilemma: Where to put them all?
“We are not a large shelter – our typical capacity is 40 dogs and 60 cats,” Carlson said.
“Fortunately, we had just built a new medical and isolation centre, so we could put some kennels in there.”
It didn’t help that just a week earlier, the shelter had rescued 52 cats from two animal-hoarding situations, she added.
“Now with this big dog rescue, I knew we were going to need some help from the community,” she said.
Carlson contacted the local newspaper, the Newark Advocate, to get the word out that donations were needed for the dogs’ medical care – including spaying, neutering, dental work and microchipping – before they could be put up for adoption.
She also posted a wish list of supplies, including dog food, bleach, digital thermometers, garbage bags and puppy training pads.
Then she called several of the shelter’s regular foster volunteers and asked them to take in the five nursing dogs that had puppies.
She said the response from the public was overwhelming.
“Wish list items on the way!!! Thank you for all you do,” one person commented on Facebook.
“Thank you for the rescue – pray they all find loving homes. I’d love to take them all,” wrote another.