Seventeen neglected and bedraggled dogs arrived at the Pendleton Animal Welfare Shelter (PAWS) this weekend.
The canines, originating from a home near Hermiston, weren’t the only animals at the residence.
“We’re estimating about 30 more,” said Robin Barker, a volunteer with Fuzz Ball Animal Rescue in Hermiston.
Barker learned about the dogs from Facebook classifieds post, which said the owner has been evicted and needs to find new homes for her dogs. Barker decided to visit, accompanied by another volunteer. They weren’t invited into the house, but could hear muffled barking from within. Other dogs, mostly Chihuahua and heeler crosses, roamed outside around piles of garbage and broken-down vehicles. They looked thin. Barker said the owner accepted the offer of dog food. The animals competed for kibble, breaking into fights, so volunteers spread the food out in lines and multiple mounds to separate the dogs.
“The dogs are underweight,” Barker said. “A lot of them are unsocialized so they just come up to you and sniff and run off.”
The animal rescue workers are trying to gently convince the owner to relinquish the animals so they can get the care they need. So far, they are guarding the person’s identity, and law enforcement is not involved.
PAWS welcomed 17 of the dogs this weekend and expects five more by Wednesday.
“None of the animals have been spayed or neutered,” said Amy Word, president of the PAWS board. “Most of the females are likely pregnant.”
PAWS board member Cindy Spiess said the owner isn’t a bad person, just unequipped to deal with the demands of pet owning.
“We’re trying to help her,” Spiess said. “She can’t care for all these animals.”
“Sometimes people who are hoarders are collectors,” Spiess said. “Initially, they think they are doing good.”
Other shelters — Blue Mountain Humane Society in Walla Walla and the Oregon Humane Society — have agreed to take some of the animals.
On Monday morning, PAWS staff member Shane Manke examined each dog for wounds and fleas. He spoke to each animal in a calming voice.
“I’m a big doggie socializer,” he said. “I get them out of their shells.”
Most of the dogs inside the pens seemed fairly unperturbed, though a few of them trembled. A pit bull terrier, who had been locked in a dark shed, looked out eagerly from one of the pens. Since none of the dogs had names, shelter workers named him Paul.
Such care is expensive. PAWS, which is running on a deficit, hopes for an influx of donations to get through this crisis. In fact, Word said, the shelter is on track for closure in a year if income doesn’t increase. Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the property, recently raised the lease amount to $1,000 per month, up from $700.
“The railroad apparently reassessed the property,” Word said. “That’s an extra $300 per month we don’t have.”
Monthly income runs about $14,500 (including $1,300 from the city of Pendleton, grants and donations). Expenses run about $17,500 per month. A recent fundraiser at 40 Taps brought in a couple of thousand dollars.
Each dog receives shots, deworming medication, flea medicine, a microchip and spaying or neutering at a total expense of about $100. That doesn’t cover extra staff time necessary to process and care for the dogs, so the $130 adoption fee doesn’t quite cover the cost.
Those wishing to donate can do so through PAWS Facebook page, the webpage at www.pendletonpaws.org/donate or by stopping by during hours of operation. Word and Spiess encouraged anyone wishing to adopt a dog to come in to the shelter at 517 SE 3rd St. and reserve one. They urged people to come down and interact with the dogs to socialize them.
Spiess and Word worry about dogs still stuck in situations of neglect. They say they know of puppy mills in the county that stay under the radar.
“This is not an isolated incident,” Spiess said. “There are a bunch of horrific situations out there that we need to address, but we don’t have the means to do it.”
“This could happen again next week,” Word said. “We want these animals taken care of and in good homes. That’s why we’re here. “
Contact Kathy Aney at email@example.com or 941-966-0810.