Many were thin from malnourishment (starvation), scarred from fighting and crippled by their cramped living quarters when North Country Animal Shelter Director Shirley Morton and her volunteers removed from a Town of Bangor home last month.
Morton was contacted by State Police Nov. 18, after authorities were called in to check the welfare of an elderly woman and her two adult sons.
“We were told eight dogs had to be removed, but it ended up being 21 adult dogs and eight puppies,” she said. “They were all in pretty bad shape.
“They had been living in kennels or were running around loose in the house and had never really been outdoors so it was a pretty bad situation in that house."
The woman and her sons didn't think they were doing anything wrong, Morton said.
“They thought they loved the dogs, but there were hoarding conditions,” she said. “It was overwhelming.”
The family members were reportedly uncooperative with law enforcement and rescue workers who struggled for more than six hours to capture, secure and transport the terrified dogs, which had never been separated from each other.
That left more confusion and uncertainty for the younger and more vulnerable ones experiencing their first taste of freedom.
“In a pack like that, the stronger ones weed out the not-so-strong and old ones and puppies so they were all in bad shape,” Morton said. “They didn’t have any idea that there was a whole outside world or what it looked like.”
After separating the canines at the shelter by gender, temperament and age, rescue volunteers worked for days to get the dogs evaluated, bathed and fed, making multiple trips to local veterinarians for overall health, reproduction-status and immunization checks.
WON'T GIVE UP
Several of the scrawniest puppies started putting on weight as they got used to human contact, and Morton said three had already been adopted.
She shares updates on the dogs' progress through the shelter’s Facebook page.
“The puppies were easiest to jump-start with their immune systems and get them healthy, but it will take a lot longer for the older dogs to get back to health,” Morton said. “We’re going to be helping them for a long, long time to save them.
“A few are still aggressive," the shelter director added, "but that’s part of the pack mentality because it’s all they have ever known.
“But we’re not giving up. We can show them there is more to life than living in a cage and that they can experience a lot better life than what they had.”
(Press Republican - Jan 8, 2017)