Staff and volunteers with the nonprofits Welfare for Animals Guild and Olympic Peninsula Humane Society were busy last week helping county officials track down nearly 30 dogs from a rural home in Agnew.
After sorting through what they describe as the worst conditions they’ve seen in these kinds of rescues, WAG members said they hope the situation is an instrument for change.
“It was shock and awe,” WAG president Barb Brabant said. “We had to get the dogs out of there.”
Following the death of the dogs’ owner about two weeks ago, an estimated 29 Australian Shepherd-Border Collies were left at the rural Gunn Road property, with about six or seven running free and the remaining in several structures on the property, WAG representatives said.
It took a week for Tracy Kellas, Clallam County animal control officer, and WAG members to trap and round up the scared canines, Clallam County chief criminal deputy Brian King said last week.
The majority of the dogs were not emaciated so they had been fed or found food, WAG members said, but the dogs were stressed and have had diarrhea. Four dogs found in a garage structure — a mom and three puppies — were frightened and hadn’t left their living space at the WAG Half Way Home Ranch for the first several days after rescue, WAG members said.
“Most of these dogs were terrified,” WAG volunteer Kelly Probst said. “These dogs didn’t know any different. They didn’t want to leave. It was safe (to them).”
Said WAG volunteer Richard Probst, “I gave them 10 gallons (of water); they drank it all down.”
The animals — which included about a dozen pigs, WAG members said — were left alone on the property after Virginia J. Wilton died May 15, King said.
Wilton died of natural causes two days after her 69th birthday, according to the death notice in Peninsula Daily News.
Family members could not be reached for comment.
WAG board director Mel Marshall said she and other guild volunteers who helped with the rescue aren’t looking to blame anyone for the dogs’ situation, but rather looking at what can be done to make sure something similar doesn’t happen again.
“People in Clallam County need to know its going on,” Kelly Probst said. “This was a cry for help. Why do we not have crisis intervention? This is a dog-loving community. If they knew, we could stop it.”
Marshall said the guild had known about dogs running free in Wilton’s neighborhood for years, but first heard about the Agnew resident’s death from a volunteer.
WAG members can’t assist with a rescue unless given permission — “We have to be invited onto the property to do anything,” Brabant said — but once they did, on May 16, they found some rough conditions in and outside the house.
“If we would have known (how bad it was) we would have worn HAZMAT suits, boots and full gear,” Probst said.
WAG worked with Kellas and the Humane Society to remove the dogs over the next several days, while the pigs went to a Joyce resident, WAG members said. As in other similar rescues WAG members set up cameras on the property to see if there were any stragglers.
“I’ve worked in real estate — I’ve never seen anything like this,” Brabant said.
“She had lots of stuff; it was trash,” Marshall said. “(But she was) not a hoarder.”
Though both Humane Society and WAG facilities were at or near capacity, the Humane Society wound up taking more than a dozen dogs and WAG found room for 11. Center Valley Animal Rescue in Quilcene took four of the more unhealthy dogs, WAG members said.
“They’re coming around,” Marshall said of WAG’s rescues.
How to help
To help defray costs, the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society issued a call for $3,000 in donations, Executive Director Luanne Hinkle said on May 24. That goal was reached and now the Humane Society has raised the mark to $5,000 (www.ophumanesociety.org/rescued-dogs). As of May 28, the community has donated about $3,800.
“They were all extremely fearful and skittish,” Hinkle said of the rescued dogs. “Obviously, they had been fed. They did not show any severe malnutrition, but they probably had been outside and not been fed with good food. Many had skin conditions. We treated them for fleas and worm and mites, and we groomed them.”
Hinkle said the animals will be spayed and neutered. None of the dogs are socialized enough to be adopted yet, although they are not aggressive, she said.
“They are very hard to handle,” she added. “In terms of people wanting to adopt them, they are not ready, and I don’t know when they are going to be ready.”
On the Humane Society website, members note, “These little ones will require lots of care, including slow and steady socialization as they are very fearful. Chances are they will be with us for some time until they are ready for a good, loving home.”
To donate to Olympic Peninsula Humane Society, visit ophumanesociety.org.
WAG, which operates solely on donations, could use assistance both financially and with helping the dogs heal.
For more about WAG or to donate, go to www.wagsequimwa.com.
While many of them are fearful and not their healthiest now, Brabant said, “We can rehab them.”
Probst said the dogs will be able to be adopted, but, “It’s going to take a special person.”
One dog in particular has made an impact with WAG volunteers. The only one they found with a collar, they’ve dubbed Eyelean: “Eye” for the eye that the female had injured and needed stitches, and “Lean” because she tends to lean in to whomever is petting her.
“She looked at us, literally grabbed and hung on to us,” Probst said.
“They say all dogs need are food, shelter, water … (but) this dog needed medical attention,” Marshall said.
Probst said a kind of silver lining in it all, she said, is that the rescue may put a spotlight on getting help for Kellas, the county animal control officer responsible for a geographically large county.
“They need a task force (and for) people to watch in neighborhoods for these kinds of situations,” Probst said.
“This has been harrowing for everyone, especially the dogs,” she said.
Paul Gottlieb, Senior Staff Writer with the Peninsula Daily News, contributed to this report. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.