The homeowner, a Palmyra woman living on South Harrison Street, called Pawsitively Pom Rescue to come for her dogs since she and her family were being evicted from their home.
“She actually contacted us and left us a voicemail saying that she needed placement for 10 to 15 Pomeranians. Then, when I talked to her she said it was 15 to 20 dogs,” Amanda Reichenbach, vice president of the Lebanon-based rescue, said.
“When we got there, and it was all said and done, there were 27 Pomeranians, one African Grey Parrot and a six-year-old boy.”
Reichenbach and the rescue’s founder, Diana Bates, set up two appointments to meet with the woman earlier in the week, but both were canceled by the woman, Reichenbach said. She and Bates felt that the woman didn’t want to open her home up to them.
They eventually convinced her to stick to a set appointment time, Reichenbach said.
“When we went there Saturday at the scheduled pick-up time nobody would answer the door,” said Reichenbach. “That is when we spoke with the neighbors who informed us of the stench coming through the walls – you could smell it through the closed, solid wood front door.”
The neighbors, who live in the other side of the duplex, told Reichenbach that there was also a child in the home, so she decided to contact police.
“We went over to the Palmyra Borough Police Department and called dispatch and they sent out Officer McGuire – he is one heck of a good police officer,” Reichenbach said. “He went over with us and tried to make contact with the homeowners. He spoke to the neighbors and they informed him of everything.”
Officer McGuire contacted Child and Youth Services (CYS) to assess the situation, Reichenbach said. A police officer from North Londonderry and an officer from South Londonderry also joined Officer McGuire on the scene.
With police and CYS on scene, the woman decided to open her door.
“She signed the dogs over to us immediately, and that is when the police officers went into the home to collect evidence,” Reichenbach said.
While police investigated the home, Reichenbach, Bates and some volunteers found themselves climbing over stacks of urine-filled soda bottles and a floor covered in feces and garbage to get the dogs out through the back door.
None of the animals had life-threatening problems, but they were not in good condition, Reichenbach said.
Though they look happy and healthy, each dog needs at least $500 in care.
"Their back legs are sort of bowed, some have some eye issues, flea allergies and flea issues from the fleas," said Reichenbach.
“They were just infested with fleas and their toenails were extremely overgrown,” she said. “There were severe mats in their fur and excrement on the pads of their paws – that place is going to give us nightmares.”
The six-year-old boy was still being evaluated by CYS as Reichenbach was leaving with the dogs, so she wasn’t sure of his condition. A request for a police report on the incident was denied by Palmyra police
The Pomeranians, some purebred and some mixed breed, were transported to Reichenbach’s home in Lebanon where they were cleaned and groomed by a group of about a dozen volunteers. It took them six hours to groom all the dogs.
The groomer provided flea baths for the dogs, and the animals were also given medicine for both flea control and deworming.
Reichenbach was thrilled with how quickly the volunteers came together, she said.
“(We didn’t have this set up ahead of time) because we didn’t realize what the conditions would be,” she said. “We thought we could go assess the dogs and then come back to my house to get everything arranged. We were not prepared at all for this.”
The next step for the dogs is medical care.
“We have to do vetting yet, and each dog will cost a minimum of $500,” she said. “That is for all the vaccines and all the puppies need fecal testing, heartworm and Lyme testing. Some of them need to be spayed or neutered, and some need some dental work. A few have deformities in their hips that will need addressed.”
Every dog is vetted before it is put up for adoption, Reichenbach said, but the cost is overwhelming with this many animals. The organization’s adoption fee is $250 per dog. A purebred Pomeranian can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500 or more, according to Pomeranian.org.
Ten of the dogs have already been transported to Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue to be adopted out through that organization. The remaining 17 will be adopted out through Pawsitively Pom Rescue. The parrot will be available for adoption through Jill’s Bird Haven.
Lebanon Daily News was not able to confirm the name of the homeowner, and a visit to the home Monday showed a sign on the front door that said "Not fit for human occupancy."
If this woman is not charged with animal cruelty, it may be because she is exhibiting the signs of the overwhelmed caregiver hoarder. She reached out for help, recognizing the problem, she cooperated when police showed up, and surrendered all the animals.