On March 24th around 6:00 pm, AHS received a call from Asheville Animal Services (“AAS”) telling us the police were serving several criminal warrants for animal cruelty. We expected to be seizing what they then thought were about 19 Shih Tzus from a residence in Asheville. Because AAS had only 2 officers on duty, they were seeking our assistance.
We loaded our van with crates and other supplies and met them at the North Asheville home. Once the warrants were served and AAS was permitted entry, we soon realized that there were far more dogs than expected, with 55 dogs dispersed in groups all over the house. The smell of ammonia from years of urine and feces buildup soaking and encrusting the walls and floors was overwhelming.
After an initial walk through, a few medically-critical dogs were rushed to nearby veterinary clinics for emergency care. Four AHS employees assisted AAS in removing 55 frightened, under-socialized, urine-burned, and feces-matted Shih Tzu mixes from the home. Unfortunately, one of the seized dogs died at the hospital shortly after he was taken into our custody.
The dogs not taken for emergency care were brought to the Buncombe County Animal Shelter, where AHS staff and volunteers were standing by to process and intake the dogs. Each dog was weighed, vaccinated, dewormed, and given flea preventative and a preliminary assessment. For the dogs' health, mobility and comfort, they would all need to be shaved.
Over the course of the next week, staff and volunteer-groomer extraordinaire, Sharon Wood, shaved, bathed and groomed each of the matted Shih Tzu mixes. However, until we received legal authority or custody, we were not allowed to treat some critical medical concerns. We were very persistent about this issue and did everything in our power to hasten the legal battle and gain full custody.
While we were waiting, our behavior staff provided enrichment, assessed each dog behaviorally, and developed a plan to help them cope with their new environment. Many of the dogs had never seen a leash before! But even in the short time we have had them, our enrichment and behavior plans are allowing many of the dogs to make great improvement.
While AHS staff worked diligently to care for these dogs, AAS, AHS management staff, and AHS attorney Sam Craig and City of Asheville Assistant Attorney John Maddox began the arduous process to gain additional authority to treat the dogs' medical issues.
Finally, we received the long-awaited news that the owner had agreed to relinquish ownership of all but 4 of the dogs to AHS. The remaining dogs not relinquished will stay under the custody and care of AHS, and their status will be determined through continuing legal efforts.
This truly has been a team effort. Many of the dogs are still in need of medical treatment for bladder stones and dental disease, but now that they are completely in our care, we can give them what they need to thrive in a safe and healthy environment!
The AHS medical department would like to thank all of the staff, volunteers and veterinary clinics that assisted with the enormous task of medically helping these animals.
A special thank-you goes to Sharon Wood, our volunteer groomer, who groomed each of the dogs. It was an extremely dirty and smelly job that would send most people running for fresh air.
We would also like to give a huge thank you to the A-B Tech Veterinary Technician Program for the world-class care they provide to shelter animals. We are incredibly grateful for the support of Dr. Anne Peden Symonds, Dr. Contessa Thomas, Dr. Lori Tapp, Paige Jimeson, RVT, Sharon Ammons, RVT, Crystal Eisenhower, RVT, and the Vet Tech Class of 2016 in helping with this case.