Pet rehab helps transform four-legged survivors

Apr 24, 2012, 7:57 PM

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) – 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 center 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 behavior team dedicated solely to rehabilitating cruelty and disaster victims. Last year, the anti-cruelty behavior 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 socialize 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 behaviorist and vice president of the ASPCA’s anti-cruelty behavior team.

Another rehab graduate is Timmy, a 5-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 orthopedic 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 behavior 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.

Behaviorists 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 behaviorists 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 behaviorist 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 behaviorists 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.

Puppy mill dogs are fairly easy to place, Blair said. They come with a lot of publicity and they aren’t really second chance pets, like most shelter animals. “These dogs have never had love or a forever home, so this is the first time around for them.”

Cats have more trouble adjusting, Reid said. They are more likely to hide than show aggression, so you have to spend more time with them.

As for Snarf?

In March, 65 of the rescued dogs, including Snarf, were sent to the Kentucky shelter. Almost all have been placed, Blair said.

Scott Franke and his wife Andy Kyle, from New Albany, Ind., saw Snarf’s picture on the shelter’s website. “When we went and saw him, it was love at first sight and we had to have him,” Franke said.

In his new home for about a month, Snarf loves to curl up on the floor close to the couple. If they mention his (ASPCA-given) name, he raises his head and wags his tail.

“We hope to give him the happiest rest of his life we can,” Franke said.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

phoenix landscape skyline...
Associated Press

Maricopa County near top in white, Black, Hispanic population growth

Metro Phoenix's Maricopa County had among the biggest population growth in white, Black and Hispanic residents last year, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
9 hours ago
Security works outside of the Supreme Court, Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacq...
Associated Press

High court rejects COVID-19 shot mandate case from New York

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court declined on Thursday to take up a case involving a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers in New York that does not offer an exemption for religious reasons. The court’s action follows a decision in December in which the justices declined an emergency request to halt the requirement. […]
9 hours ago
Women in sunhats look at the Supreme Court, Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacqu...
Associated Press

Justices to hear GOP appeal that could limit state courts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear an appeal from North Carolina Republicans that could drastically limit state court authority over congressional redistricting, as well as elections for Congress and the presidency. The justices will consider whether state courts, finding violations of their state constitutions, can order changes to federal elections […]
9 hours ago
A Cuban woman and her daughter wait in line to be escorted to a Border Patrol van for processing in...
Associated Press

Supreme Court says Biden properly ended ‘Remain in Mexico’ immigration policy

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Biden administration properly ended the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy for some asylum-seekers.
9 hours ago
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, ...
Associated Press

Biden backs filibuster exception to protect abortion access

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would support an exception to the Senate filibuster to protect access to abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. “If the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights,” Biden said during a press conference in Madrid, where he was attending […]
9 hours ago
Zabiullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Taliban government, speaks during a press conference in Ka...
Associated Press

Afghan Taliban hold clerics gathering, aiming to boost rule

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers held a gathering Thursday of some 3,000 Islamic clerics and tribal elders for the first time since seizing power in August, urging those at the meeting to advise them on running the country. Women were not allowed to attend. The Taliban, who have kept a complete lock on decision-making […]
9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Pet rehab helps transform four-legged survivors