By MARGIE NETZEL - firstname.lastname@example.org
KINGSVILLE TOWNSHIP — Tammy Dondorfer reached down to pet Daisy the emaciated collie’s head, hoping to reach out emotionally and physically to the mange-infested dog.
“Her hair came off in my hand,” she said. “That dog was so far gone and in such desperate need of immediate care. I couldn’t leave her there.”
The Ashtabula County Animal Protective League rescued 16 dogs, all living outside, from an animal hoarding situation in Ashtabula Township in December.
Those dogs, named Willis, Isis, Kelly, Steve and Wesley, were available for adoption at the shelter. Steve is still available for adoption. Kelly was adopted and then returned to the shelter on Sunday.
But APL animal advocate Dondorfer, aided by Ashtabula County Dog Warden Donna Yan, were horrified when they returned to the residence last week and found more animals in terrible condition. They took another five dogs from the residence, including Daisy and Little Bear, the mixed breed, Dondorfer said.
“The collie — she would have died. She was a skeleton,” she said.
The volunteers also removed a pregnant dog and a dog with a newborn litter of puppies. They all went to specialized rescues, where they will receive at least six weeks of medication and quarantine for sarcoptic mange and intestinal parasites.
Caused by mites and highly contagious, sarcoptic mange is difficult to treat and contain in the shelter environment. The condition also compromises an animals’ immune system, Dondorfer said.
The work will keep coming, Dondorfer said, as at least 15 more dogs must be rescued from the situation over the next few weeks.
“I want to stress that these dogs were not starved,” she said. “They were being fed. This was a situation where an older gentleman became overwhelmed by his situation. We are fortunate that he now understands that this couldn’t continue.”
Taking on 21 dogs — all in need of specialized veterinary care, quarantine and socialization — has taken a toll on the shelter’s already taxed funds. The cost for the animals, including veterinary care, medication, boarding and socialization with humans is thousands of dollars, Dondorfer said.
“These dogs, they are so shy,” she said. “They don’t know anything about humans. They have never lived inside. They all have great personalities, but it is going to take some time and patience for them to come around.”
Even the dogs the shelter sent to rescues were vaccinated and medicated upon arrival at the shelter. Their transportation to meeting spots for rescue was also an expense.
The shelter is fundraising to meet the financial need of the dogs and to prepare for the influx of dogs still at the residence. An online donation fund via PayPal has been set up at www.acapl.org. Be sure to note the money is for the dog hoarding situation. Donations can also be sent, payable to APL, to 5970 Green Road, Ashtabula, 44004.
“No amount is too small,” APL board vice president Irene Fiala said. “Every penny counts when a life is on the line. We take on a huge burden when we step up to something like this, but it is the right thing to do, so we do it.”
The shelter is also in need of blankets for the dogs, Dondorfer said.
“Once the dogs touch a blanket, it is contaminated with mange and we have to throw it away. We just can’t risk the mange infesting other dogs.”