Who says only cats get nine lives? Pet rehab helps transform canine survivors of devastating puppy mills
Rehab gave new life to 117 dogs rescued last fall from Kentucky puppy mill
Last year, ASPCA coordinated rehab for more than 1,200 cats and dogs
Snarf was underweight with a heart murmur and a possible ulcer when he was rescued from a Kentucky puppy mill. He had hookworm, fleas and ticks, infections in his eyes and ears, red skin and patchy hair.
The 10-year-old Japanese chin wasn't house trained and didn't know how to play with people. He hardly seemed like anyone's idea of a pet.
But thanks to several months of rehab, he is.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals set up a rehab centre for Snarf and the other 117 dogs rescued in October from a Kentucky puppy mill.
The ASPCA is the only national animal welfare organization with a behaviour team dedicated solely to rehabilitating cruelty and disaster victims. Last year, the anti-cruelty behaviour team coordinated rehab for more than 1,200 cats and dogs.
Many pets who end up in rehab are victims of abusive owners who have been arrested for dogfighting, hoarding or puppy mill violations. Other animals survive natural disasters.
Snarf had been crated, isolated and used for breeding all his life before he spent six months in rehab.
His medical conditions were treated and he was taught how to socialise and play with humans and animals, how to walk on a leash and to urinate outside of his crate.
Hoarded or mill dogs have been trapped in small spaces and denied human contact so they lack social skills and are often afraid of sights, sounds and experiences, said Pamela Reid, an animal behaviourist and vice president of the ASPCA's anti-cruelty behaviour team.
Another rehab graduate is Timmy, a five-month-old dachshund born with a growth defect after the dogs were seized. The radius and ulna in both front legs are deformed, said Andrea Blair, director of communications for the Kentucky Humane Society, so Timmy appears to be running on his elbows. He also had surgery to repair a hernia.
In foster care, he's gained strength and muscle tone and now has a potential owner and an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist.
Can rehab save every animal? 'Saving depends on your definition. We certainly save them from cruel and inhumane situations,' Reid said. 'There are medical cases where it's more fair to the animal to euthanize than to attempt treatment or treatment is not possible and the quality of life they are suffering is too great.'
In February, 692 cats were seized from Caboodle Ranch, an overwhelmed Florida sanctuary. At a temporary shelter in Jacksonville, 13 cats were euthanized for severe medical problems, and treatments started for others.
All of the cats got regular meals and visits from volunteers.
Dogfighting and disasters can be more challenging. Fighting dogs might show aggression toward other animals, but appear sweet and friendly with people. Disasters each bring their own kind of fear.
Reid's behaviour team watches how each dog reacts to pleasant greetings and unpleasant greetings. They watch as workers clip its nails, pull a burr from its fur, give it a toy and food and take them away. They expose the dog to a toddler-size doll and a life-size dog mannequin, scold it and watch it interact with other dogs.
Behaviourists look for eye contact, posture, the dog's tail and ears and what it does when it sees a person it knows.
A dog has to do well with the doll before behaviourists will recommend it for a home with children, Reid said.
With puppy mill, hoarding and disaster dogs, the emphasis is on new or frightening experiences.
The behaviourist might put food down and then open an umbrella nearby. They watch the dog to see how long it takes it to recover and get back to the food or leave the food and go to the umbrella.
'Either is OK,' Reid said. 'Those that go into a corner and shut down are the ones we are concerned about.'
Whatever their problems, you just have to keep working with animals, Reid said. Sometimes they will partner a troubled animal with a friendly animal. 'Dogs are very good at picking up on the emotional state of their companions,' Reid said.
Many of the ASPCA's shelter partners, including Kentucky, have full-time behaviourists who take over for Reid and her team. Every dog that arrives at the shelter, which places 6,000 animals a year, is evaluated for adoptability, Blair said.
Source: Daily Mail