Rescue work in not a 9-5 job. Most people who work in animal rescue understand that animals need help even outside of typical business hours. We were reminded of that last Tuesday, May 24 when we received a call for help at 5:30 p.m.
Just when we thought our day was over, the call meant that our day was actually just beginning. Law enforcement were on scene at a property in Allendale with more than 20 dogs chained up behind a house. A state and federal seizure of the dogs was in progress and they had no safe place to take the dogs. The Allendale County Animal Shelter has 17 kennels and all of them were full.
Several calls later and a team of five from the SPCA were on their way to Allendale with three vehicles. We arrived at the property close to dark and assessed the need. There were six puppies, some of whom were already kenneled together, so we were relieved that the math worked out – we could place 22 dogs in the 17 available kennels at the Allendale County Animal Shelter. We made the decision to house them all together at the Allendale County Animal Shelter so a vet could examine them all at one location.
All the adult dogs, and some of the puppies, were on heavy chains. They did not appear to have access to clean water and food. Some had dilapidated dog houses, but those were full of feces and filth. Others had turned over barrels which were supposed to serve as shelter from the elements. Most of the dogs were emaciated and covered in fleas. Many had open wounds and scarring. Beds, toys, treats – all the things you give your pet – were nowhere in sight.
We put emotion aside and went to work. Darkness fell upon us, but the work continued with flashlights and the headlights from the vehicles. No dog would be left behind. One by one, each dog was photographed, documented, numbered and loaded into a kennel in the SPCA vehicles.
Most of the chains had to be cut off with bolt cutters. Some people believe that dogs living in these conditions would be aggressive to people. It is actually quite the opposite. Every single one of the 22 dogs were friendly and freely giving out kisses to us. Could they sense that we were there to help them? The dogs were very tolerant of us handling them, even when we sometimes struggled to cut their thick chains off.
When the last chain was cut and the last dog loaded, it was after 10 p.m. A caravan of six vehicle drove down the country roads and arrived at the county shelter with Linda waiting to receive them. Linda is one of the unsung heroes of animal rescue and never complained about us arriving after 10 p.m. with 22 dogs. We worked until after 1 a.m. loading the dogs who were already at the shelter and replacing them with the 22 seized dogs.
When every dog was secure, we drove slowing back to the Albrecht Center, dodging deer and other animals on the way. When we pulled into the parking lot of the SPCA Albrecht Center, it was 2 a.m., but one would think it was 2 p.m. The parking lot was full of cars of those who came out in the middle of the night to help. This is the heart of rescue – those who are willing to help animals in need at 9 a.m., 9 p.m. or 2 a.m.
We were all back at the SPCA Albrecht Center the next day working to help make the new arrivals comfortable. We could not continue to help homeless animals without staff, fosters, volunteers, donors and supporters who sustain our life-saving work. Just as we got the 17 new adult dogs settled, and breathed a little sigh of relief, another call came Wednesday afternoon. Law enforcement needed help with eight more dogs in Allendale from an unrelated case.
Since the local shelter was full, we would have to bring those eight back to the Albrecht Center. Kennels, leashes, collars, flashlights, water, bowels, towels – all were loaded into the vehicles so we could do it all again. It was almost 5 p.m.