SPCA bursting at the seams
Anne Pickering , Staff Writer
WEST GOSHEN -- The Chester County SPCA is trying to cope with the veterinary needs of the 335 dogs that were allegedly living in unsanitary conditions in a Lower Oxford kennel confiscated Feb. 10.
There is a long list of maladies that the dogs suffer from, said Larry Dieter, a veterinarian who works at the shelter three mornings a week. Some of the dogs are being treated by vets off-site. The list comprises ear problems, including inflamed and infected ears; skin problems, including hair loss from dermatitis and mange; eye problems, including severe dry eye, cataracts or glaucoma; teeth problems such as missing teeth, gingivitis, heavy tartar buildup; and intestinal parasites, including whipworm and roundworns, Dieter said.
The shelter is still in the stage of assessing and treating the dogs. All are being given baths and medication for lice, fleas, ticks, intestinal worms and skin problems, said Bill Allen, kennel coordinator.
The SPCA is now caring for about 100 out of the original 335 dogs, with the rest at other shelters and rescue societies in the area.
Dieter said he has looked at 60 to 80 animals so far and has thoroughly examined 30 to 40.
On Thursday, Dieter said he saw two papillons that had untreated broken bones that had healed but had left limbs in contorted positions.
On his examining table, he was treating No. 131: a female adult Cavalier King Charles spaniel who had just given birth to two puppies that morning but still had another one inside.
No. 131 also suffered from demodectic mange, a noncontagious form of the disease. One eye looked cloudy, which could be either glaucoma or cataracts, the vet said. She had a growth on her back that was a wound or skin problem that had healed over and now was just a scaly mass. But her most pressing health issue was the puppy inside of her that didnâ€™t want to come out.
Dieter said he had given her two injections to stimulate labor. "It may be that the puppy is dead and sheâ€™ll need surgery to remove it," the vet said.
No. 131 is being kept in the maternity ward along with some pregnant cats, said Miranda Albrecht, a kennel technician, "so that I can keep an eye on her."
The pregnant spaniel is not the only pet that may have a dead puppy inside. A female English bulldog that the shelter suspected was the mother of at least one bulldog puppy was suffering from pyometra, a bacterial infection. The only treatment is to have the dog spayed, said Allen, but when the dog was undergoing the surgery, the doctors found a dead puppy inside of her.
"It happens a lot with English bulldogs, a breed known to have difficulty giving birth. They frequently have to have a Caesarean section," Allen said.
When the SPCA raided Michael Wolfâ€™s kennel in the 1700 block of Old Baltimore Pike, it said it discovered the 335 dogs living in three buildings in unsanitary conditions. The dogs, including predominantly English bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, papillons and Havanese, were removed to the SPCA shelter.
Wolf was charged with 335 counts of animal cruelty for unsanitary conditions, a summary offense that could result in fine or imprisonment or both.
Gordon Trottier, an employee of the kennel and a breeder of papillons, was charged with 65 counts of animal cruelty for unsanitary conditions.
Last week, additional charges were filed against Wolf, including 200 counts of having unlicensed dogs and 100 counts of having dogs without a rabies vaccination.
Additional charges are pending against Trottier, said Chuck McDevitt, a spokesman for the SPCA.
While the animals cannot be put up for adoption until the court case is adjudicated, the bills for their care are piling up.
"The vet bills could be huge," said McDevitt, who admitted that he hadnâ€™t even looked at a stack of bills that have already come in. Some of the other shelters that are caring for the dogs may not be able to absorb the veterinarian fees.
"I would expect that we are going to have to help some of them out," said Susan Spackman, SPCA executive director. One sick dog being housed at another shelter has already amassed $4,600 in veterinarian bills.
Between veterinarian costs, medicine and staff overtime, the resources of the shelter have been stretched thin.
The public has really stepped in to fill the gap, said McDevitt. The shelter has received supplies of dog food, beds, blankets, puppy formula among other items. The phone rings with prospective volunteers although volunteers cannot help with the confiscated dogs.
With the shelter nearing capacity, McDevitt wonders what will happen in the spring when numbers usually swell because animals have litters.
"We are urging people to exhaust every avenue before bringing their pets here," said McDevitt. He suggests that people who need to find a home for a pet try placing ads or posting flyers, although it is an open shelter and it will not turn anyone away.
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