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Kari Lucin, Forum News Service, Published June 17 2013

Dogs rescued from hoarder need medical help

JAMESTOWN, N.D. - Assessments of the 28 dogs rescued from a hoarding situation over the weekend revealed that they could potentially need up to $10,000 for medical care.

"They are all settling in and letting us handle them, whereas the first day, they were scared," said Kris Meidinger, dog manager with the James River Humane Society. "They were terrified. They're doing a lot better today."

The dogs, mostly dachshunds, were taken with permission from their owner, though he has since called the Humane Society asking for his dogs back, Meidinger said.

A deputy sheriff from the Eddy County Sheriff's Office called the Humane Society on Thursday for assistance, stating that neighbors had complained about dogs barking but had never seen dogs outside the residence. The Humane Society called Prairie Paws Rescue for assistance, and Prairie Paws co-founder Becky Johnson went with Meidinger to help assess the situation.

They met at the courthouse in case legal action would be needed to save the dogs, but the owner voluntarily signed them over.

It took an hour or more to catch the dogs, all of whom had been totally confined indoors, Meidinger said. They had been urinating and defecating inside the house, leaving its hardwood floors sticky and its linoleum slippery —and leaving at least one of the dogs with wounds from the urine.

Meidinger emphasized that hoarding is a mental illness, and that the dogs’ owner genuinely believed he was helping his dogs.

In this case, Meidinger said, the Eddy County Sheriff's Office has contacted a human services agency to try to ensure the situation doesn't occur again. If charges are filed, they are likely to be for not providing immunizations, for having too many dogs within the city limits or for failing to license the dogs, Meidinger said.

Several of the dogs, including a pregnant female, have already been sent on to or spoken for by other shelters. Their number includes a litter of 5-week-old puppies whose eyes aren't even open, each of whom would fit comfortably in a person's hand.

All of the dogs are currently in quarantine from other dogs, and people should not yet attempt to visit them, though adoption forms are available, Meidinger said.

It could take six weeks to six months for them to be totally ready for adoption — immunized, spayed or neutered, treated for mange and given dental care where needed. The treatment could cost between $100 and $350 per dog, Meidinger said.

Emotionally and socially, the dogs are already in recovery from their situation. The mother of the tiniest puppies has learned to allow humans to touch the pups, and the majority of the other dogs are eager to be scratched, happily jumping up to nuzzle even a stranger's hand.

"We're hoping to have quite a few sent out (to other shelters and rescues) by Friday," Meidinger said. "At least 10 more."

As of Monday evening, 19 remained at the Humane Society, with the intent of having 10 to 12 stay in the area, with the Humane Society or Prairie Paws.

Both groups are seeking foster families for the dogs.

Financial help also is needed, said Kaye John, co-founder of Prairie Paws.

"We welcome the opportunity for people to help," John said. "... the big thing is money. The monetary thing, just to get these dogs the treatment that they need."

Prairie Paws has received many offers of help since the dachshunds’ story went public along with that of a litter of nine puppies whose owner attempted to bury them alive. Some people offering to foster dogs have been far from the Jamestown region, and have been referred to more local rescue operations, John said.

"I say there’s a need here, but if they want to help their own local shelters that would be a prime opportunity," John said. "The story absolutely captured their hearts."

Other rescue operations have also rallied to help the dachshunds and the puppies. Minn-Kota PAAWS of Fargo, for example, has offered to help with some lower-cost spaying and neutering.

While the puppies who escaped being buried alive have already moved out of the community, and the dachshunds are receiving care, three more dogs that need help are already on their way from Minot to the Jamestown community, John said.

To learn more, or to donate to the James River Humane Society, call 252-0747 or visit www.jamesriverhumanesociety.org.

For more information or to donate to Prairie Paws, visit prairiepawsrescue.com or call 320-4553.