The increase of stray animals is making it hard on shelters and rescue groups everywhere, but Carolina PAWS (Pet Adoption & Welfare Society) is experiencing an unusually busy season. The Waxhaw-based animal rescue group took in 11 new dogs over the weekend in an emergency effort to keep the animals out of shelters.
Upon hearing about the raid on the Caldwell County puppy mill last week, Carolina PAWS members knew they had to intervene. The organization sent groups to the mill on Friday and Saturday to gather as many dogs as possible and bring them back to local foster homes.
The volunteers were able to gather more than 20 dogs, which were brought to Union County. Carolina PAWS was able to house 11 of those dogs, and the rest that originally went to shelters have now been adopted or taken by other rescue groups.
The scene at the puppy mill was devastating, witnesses said.
“The guy had about 300 small dogs in wire-bottom cages,” said volunteer Kathy Rilley, who travelled to Caldwell County on Saturday. “Sometimes their (waste) didn’t drop through, and some dogs were living in cages so small they couldn’t turn around.”
As a result of their poor living conditions, many of the dogs had severe hygiene issues and health problems. Matted fur, long toenails, rotting teeth, injured corneas and foot blisters from the wire-bottom cages were commonly seen. “Some couldn’t even walk,” Rilley said.
With fewer than 20 foster homes, Carolina PAWS had to scramble to find temporary living quarters for the rescued dogs. Because the number of kittens rescued this time each year is high, many of the foster homes were full. Rilley ended up taking two of the dogs into her own home. “We’re a small rescue,” Rilley said. “I don’t normally foster, but I pitched in to help out in an emergency situation.”
Theresa Ronayne, another volunteer, temporarily placed some of her foster kittens in a local PetSmart to make room for the two dogs she is housing. Members of the organization even acquired a poodle they thought might be pregnant, only to watch her give birth that evening.
The emergency rescue situation is not only filling up homes; it’s straining the group’s resources as well. Foster homes need extra dog food. The dogs with bad teeth cannot chew the dry food, so the organization needs wet food, which is more expensive, for those cases. Puppy pads are needed because the rescued dogs are not housetrained.
In addition to basic necessities, the dogs also need veterinary treatment. All the dogs will be spayed and neutered and receive up-to-date shots. The dogs with teeth problems will need dental work, which significantly increases expenses. Animal hospitals in the area, as well as the Humane Society, work with Carolina PAWS to reduce fees, but the endeavor is still very costly.
Carolina PAWS is counting on community members to pitch in and donate items, such as dog food, puppy pads, exchanging cages and monetary contributions to meet these dogs’ needs. The organization also is urging individuals to consider adopting these animals or becoming a foster home. “If anybody has room in their house or their heart to foster a dog and get it out of the shelter, that’s the best thing they could do,” Ronayne said.
In order to ensure animals end up in good homes, Carolina PAWS uses screening prior to adopting out animals to individuals. Laura Minsk, treasurer of the Carolina PAWS board, believes this is the key to keeping the animals out of shelters. “We screen to find only very good homes,” Minsk said. “We want to make sure we don’t put all this time and effort into it and have them end up back in the shelter.”
The response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive. Rilley has already received dozens of phone calls from individuals who have heard about the situation and want to help by adopting a dog. “Not everyone wants a puppy,” she said. “People are willing to take the older dogs, too.”
Rilley hopes this emergency rescue operation will encourage individuals to be careful where they purchase their pets and to always consider adoption from shelters and rescue groups. “Purebred dogs are showing up at rescues all the time,” Rilley said. “If people get on PetFinder or go around to shelters and rescue groups, they’ll find what they’re wanting.”
For information on how to adopt or get involved, visit www.carolinapaws.com.