Emma Hope, a blue merle great dane mix puppy, settles in at the Devoted Barn animal rescue in Newport, Mich. Emma Hope was picked up as a stray in May. Most wounds were treated, but others couldn’t be fixed. Emma Hope was taken in by Melissa Borden, who runs the barn.
MONROE — A seriously injured Toledo puppy is getting a second chance in life with a Michigan animal rescue.
Emma Hope, a blue merle great dane mix estimated at about 5 months old, is romping about as the newest permanent resident at the Devoted Barn off North Dixie Highway in Frenchtown Township.
“She’s doing fantastic,” said Melissa Borden, who runs the barn. “She’s settling in and has made friends with all of the barn dogs.”
Lucas County Canine Care & Control picked up Emma May 13 in the 1500 block of Western Avenue as a stray with traumatic injuries to her perianal area and tail. A significant portion of her tail was missing and what remained was badly infected. She also had no control of her bowels and was constantly leaking feces, leading to a painful skin infection on her rear.
Planned Pethood transferred her from the county shelter May 17.
“The entire back end was all raw, and it was so raw it was into her anus,” said Lindsay Ash, director of dog intakes for Planned Pethood.
Emma was treated at SylvaniaVET, which found that her tailbone was separated from the rest of her spine, damaging a set of nerves for the anus.
Dr. Bob Esplin said it’s possible someone tried to help Emma’s mother give birth and pulled on the puppy’s tail.
“It seems unlikely this was a congenital defect,” he said. “Not knowing what the trauma was makes it really a challenge to tell. There’s no way to be sure.”
A second possibility, Ms. Ash said, is that Emma may have been sexually assaulted.
“There’s no definitive testing, but it was such severe trauma that that was one of the options,” Ms. Ash said. “She has no other injuries, no broken bones. All of her injuries were on her rear.”
Dr. Esplin said such cruelty would be the absolute worst-case scenario.
Emma retains control of her bladder, but her fecal incontinence could not be fixed. What remained of her tail was amputated to prevent feces from building up underneath. Even so, she will likely have recurring skin problems.
Melissa Borden and Emma Hope greet Ozzy, a Labrador retriever, at the Devoted Barn in Newport, Mich. Ms. Borden says Emma Hope even is snuggling up to a pot-bellied pig.
“It’s a high-maintenance problem,” Dr. Esplin said.
That meant Emma was not a candidate for adoption. Planned Pethood contacted The Devoted Barn and officially transferred her there Aug. 23.
Ms. Borden said the rescue had two resident dogs with complete urinary and fecal incontinence. They live in comfort in the barn where their issues aren’t a problem.
“One of my main reasons for opening this farm was to give animals options that don’t have other options. Where else would they go?” Ms. Borden said. Emma “didn’t have any other options, and she fit our mission.”
The Michigan rescue has had experience with dogs who have been sexually abused. A canine named Belle had extensive internal trauma to her vagina with severe callousing around her vulva, and subsequently an extreme fear aggression toward men.
“Emma holds no hard feelings,” Ms. Borden said. “I’m a firm believer that each one of these guys can teach. Hopefully we can make Emma part of our education program and take her into schools.”
Gary Willoughby, executive director of the Toledo Area Humane Society, said very few — if any — cases of sexually abused animals have been found in Lucas County.
“Most people don’t know it isn’t illegal in Ohio,” Mr. Willoughby said. “And it’s very difficult to find and prove.”
If the animal is injured or neglected, existing cruelty laws can be applied, Mr. Willoughby said. But if the animal isn’t physically harmed and is otherwise cared for, the issue becomes much muddier.
State Sen. Jim Hughes (R., Columbus) in July introduced Senate Bill 195 to make sexual contact with an animal a misdemeanor criminal offense. He said Ohio is one of only 11 states without an anti-bestiality law on its books.
“We need to protect the animals that have no voice of their own,” he said, adding that animals cannot legally consent to the activity, much like a child can’t. “We don’t want to be known as a society that allows sex with animals.”
In a request for legislative co-sponsors, Senator Hughes noted a bestiality website in June had more than 1,400 Ohio advertisements for people seeking an animal for sex, more than double the national average of 659, and with Ohio ranking No. 5 for number of threads. A second forum with a thread for owners offering their animals for sexual use had 83 replies and had been viewed more than 96,000 times.
Mr. Willoughby said the humane society has given full support to a bill that would clarify a gray area in the state’s animal-cruelty laws.
As for Emma, she is making herself at home at the Devoted Barn. She has already identified the volunteers who are more likely to indulge her with treats, and she charms them with her unusual eyes that have both brown and blue in each iris. Ms. Borden said she’s even been caught snuggling with a rescued pot-bellied pig.
Planned Pethood is raising funds to cover the cost of Emma’s veterinary care at gofundme.com/jcpkve3c, and $525 of $2,000 has been donated.
Emma will need ongoing general care at The Devoted Barn, and potential future treatment for skin issues. Donations to the Devoted Barn may be made online at thedevotedbarn.org/give. Checks made out to the rescue may be mailed to 6227 N. Dixie Hwy., Newport, MI 48166.
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