The HSUS Animal Rescue Team and local law enforcement officials descended this morning on a horrific sight on a property in Jefferson County, Arkansas – yet another animal crisis situation in the Natural State. In a darkened house, littered with filth, feces, urine, and junk, lived 46 dogs. Most were severely emaciated, with bald patches where fur should have covered them. The dogs were of all ages, and many appeared to have mange and skin, ear, and eye infections. The smell of ammonia was so overpowering that our rescuers struggled to breathe, even with respirators strapped on.
“The dogs were essentially living in their own waste in every area of the house,” said Chris Schindler, director of animal crimes at The HSUS. “There were thousands of flies all over the place…the sound was unreal.”
There was no food or water in sight. The owner of the property had been “rationing” food out to the dogs, and because they had so little, the dogs had been fighting each other for the insufficient scraps provided.
The dogs have been removed from the property by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office, pending the disposition of this case. They are being taken to a temporary shelter where they will be thoroughly examined by a team of veterinarians and receive any necessary immediate medical treatment. Responders from RedRover and the Humane Society of Saline County are assisting with the temporary caretaking of the animals, and other groups, including Greater Good, Rescue Bank, Halo, and PetSmart Charities are providing food and financial support for the temporary shelter. The dogs are fairly unsocialized but we believe that with some work they will come around and be ready for adoption. But that will take time.
Our Animal Rescue Team is often on the ground, helping local law enforcement rescue dogs from puppy mill and dogfighting situations. But we also take on cases of neglect, general cruelty, and large scale neglect cases, like this one. The blend of animal cruelty and neglect can be a challenge: with the laws as they exist, there’s often little that we can do to prevent defendants from acquiring animals again and putting them at risk. Law enforcement and animal welfare organizations end up bearing the long-term costs of medical care and sheltering for the animals, and the animals pay the biggest price.
It is important that animal cruelty charges that result in meaningful penalties are in place as a necessary part of an effective response from the judicial system. In cases of hoarding, we ask that the courts impose a period of long-term probation, a ban on animal ownership for these individuals, and psychological counseling. If we are to break the cycle, we must have multiple agencies play a role, including those specializing in psychiatric treatment.
Thanks to the members of our team, our partnering organization, and law enforcement personnel who pulled the dogs out of this nightmarish situation. We’ll provide updates on humanesociety.org.