Staff behaviorist Aja Lebarr works with dogs in the dog play group at the Toledo Area Humane Society.
The Blade/Andy Morrison
The first five of the 12 dogs the Toledo Area Humane Society helped rescue in April from a hoarding situation in southern Ohio have gone up for adoption.
Millie, a 4-year-old Australian cattle dog mix, and Butch, a 2-year-old border collie mix, were adopted earlier this week. Claire, Hank, and Hazel are awaiting homes. Each spent several weeks in foster homes getting some care and socialization.
Katie Byers, of Waterville, Millie’s foster mom, said she was amazed at the progress the dog made during the three weeks she was in the care of her family.
“At first, she was afraid of the car, she was afraid of the TV, she was afraid of the closing of the oven door,” Mrs. Byers said. “But she really came around.”
The dogs currently looking for homes are Claire, a 3-year-old beagle mix; Hank, a 2-year-old border collie mix, and Hazel, an 8-year-old Labrador retriever mix.
All of the dogs from the property showed varying degrees of nervousness in new situations, said Aja LeBarr, who is in charge of training and enrichment at the Toledo Area Humane Society.
Many will be required to be adopted into families who already have a resident dog at home or are willing to adopt a second dog, she said.
“Because of their backgrounds, they feel much more comfortable with other dogs and it helps make them feel more confident,” Ms. LeBarr said.
Of the other seven dogs, two remain in foster homes and five are still at the humane society, said Cindy Condit, the group’s marketing and special events manager, who is fostering one of the dogs, Jenny, a 2-year-old Australian cattle dog and dachshund mix.
The other dog currently in foster is Eva, a 2-year-old Australian cattle dog mix, who since coming to Toledo had a litter of six puppies.
Staff continue to work closely with the five dogs still at the shelter in hopes that they will soon be able to go to foster homes.
“We are slowly seeing progress with each of them,” said Ms. Condit. “In fact, three of the dogs are now getting more comfortable with our staff members and allowing them to walk them outside on leashes, which is a huge accomplishment.”
One of the five, Louie, was in such bad shape emotionally that humane society staff weren’t sure he was rehabitable. Now, 6-year-old Great Pyrenees dog enjoys frolicking in the shelter’s yard with Ms. LeBarr.
Toledo’s humane society was one of several groups that helped take in the 120 animals after they were rescued in March by the Humane Society of the United States, which was called in by the Belmont County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Office to assist at a Bellaire property, along with the Belmont County Animal Rescue League.
Animals taken from the property included 60 dogs, about 40 cats, 14 horses, several goats, and a number of fowl suffering from a variety of medical conditions and a lack of basic care.
The owner of the house, Sandra Fanti, was charged with 34 counts of animal cruelty. Ms Fanti pleaded no contest to 17 of the counts on April 25 before Belmont County Eastern Division Judge John A. Vavra. The other counts were dismissed. She was fined $250 plus $120 court costs and fees. She forfeited ownership of all the animals and was sentenced to 90 days in jail with 82 days suspended and eight days credit. Ms. Lanti is on two years of unsupervised probation and she cannot own or possess animals during that time.
The HSUS initially set up a temporary shelter at the Belmont County Fairgrounds in which to evaluate the animals and begin treating them.
On April 15, several of the national group’s Emergency Placement Partners took the animals. The Toledo Area Humane Society was joined by Second Chance Animal Shelter, in East Brookfield, Mass.; CHA Animal Shelter, in Columbus; PAWS Ohio in Cleveland; and Humane Society of Berks County in Reading, Pa.
Dr. Debbie Johnson, TAHS director of operations, was one of two humane society staff members who went to pick up the dogs. Although she didn’t get to see the property the dogs came from first hand, some of its conditions were related to her.
“There was an electric fence around the perimeter that was working so the free roaming dogs on the property could not escape and try to find food,” she said. “There was no gas, no running water.”
Some of the dogs were chained in front of the house and some were in crates that had rusted so badly that they were locked inside, she said.
The five dogs remaining at the shelter that have not gone into foster care are being treated with a variety of methods to reduce their anxiety, including medication and plug-in diffusers which give off a comforting pheromone scent. The staff is also using flower essences mixed with spring water in spray bottles that are thought to be helpful in alleviating fear and anxiety, Dr. Johnson said.
“Anything we can do to take a little bit of the edge off for these guys, we are trying,” she said. “We are really impressed with the progress they are making. It’s so nice to see them being able to enjoy life and do normal dog things.”