When 359 dogs were seized from what authorities called deplorable conditions at Heavenly Kennels near Cumming, Ga., in July, the Petfinder Foundation was there to help. We rushed a $3,000 disaster grant to Cherokee County Animal Shelter in Canton, Ga., to help offset the cost of caring for the dogs, all of whom urgently needed medical care.
Veterinarian Dr. Michael Good, who assisted with the rescue, described the dogs’ living conditions to Atlanta’s WGCL-TV: “Almost every cage had feces in it. They’re designed that when they urinate, and I guess when they mash it down enough, it will fall through the grates.”
The cages’ wire floors caused the dogs tremendous pain. “I saw dogs sleeping in food bowls so they could get off the wire screen,” Good said. “Imagine living your whole life on something like that. It’s got to have an effect on your ligaments and your joints.”
Celebrity dog trainer and animal activist Victoria Stillwell was also present during the raid. “It’s absolutely disgusting, the conditions these animals are living in,” she told WGCL. “They are suffering physically, but they’re also suffering emotionally.”
Cherokee County Animal Shelter Director Susan Garcia told us the animals had been neglected of basic veterinary care for many years. “We have purchased vaccines, flea treatment, microchips and medication for this group of dogs that exceeds $10,000. We hope to improve the dental quality for some of the adult dogs. They are most vulnerable as many of them are pregnant or nursing puppies. Many of dogs in this case suffer from internal parasites, while most also suffer from bacterial infections and all are suffering from ear infections as well.”
The situation nearly overwhelmed the shelter, Garcia said: “Although our building is able to house the animals, we have a small staff that is unable to do the sheer amount of cleaning involved alone. We are relying on our volunteers, supporters and the community at large to keep us going through this situation.”
Ultimately, the cost of caring for the dogs exceeded $100,000, Garcia told the Cherokee Tribune in September. But there was good news: The kennel’s owners agreed to surrender the dogs to the shelter, and every one has been adopted.
The shelter held an adoption event on Aug. 23, and members of the community turned out in droves, Rescue Event Coordinator Lori Kekel told us. “Forty people stayed overnight” before the event to make sure they’d be able to adopt one of the dogs, and hundreds more lined up around the block that day.
The Petfinder Foundation grant helped produce this happy ending. “We could not have been as successful in this emergency situation without the help of our partners,” Kekel said.