Showing posts with label Quebec dog rescue 2011. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quebec dog rescue 2011. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lachute, Québec dog rescue: one year anniversary

By Jennifer Johnston, RedRover Responders volunteer Guest contributor and volunteer Communications Assistant

September 17th, 2011. It was one of the first chilly Autumn nights in Western Québec. Despite being far from city lights and seeing a bright, gorgeous moon rise, it was pitch black at 2 a.m. The only real light we had came from inside the open garage doors of the main emergency shelter building and a few headlamps some well-prepared staff and volunteers were wearing.

We were a group of many colours: lead agency MAPAQ (Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec) staff in cyan blue vests, law enforcement in somber shades of brown and black, Humane Society International (HSI) staff in forest green shirts, medical staff and volunteers in baby blue paper sterile gowns, and RedRover Responders volunteers from Canada and the U.S. in our trademark red shirts.

Volunteer briefing led by Connie Brooks.

What brought us together was soon to become a precedent-setting case in Québec, a part of Canada called “the best province [in which] to be an animal abuser” by the Animal Legal Defence Fund in 2011. Coordinated by MAPAQ, local law enforcement, and HSI, over 600 dogs and puppies were about to be rescued from a life of neglect at the Paws R Us breeding facility west of Montréal.

After days of non-stop construction – kennels for breeds of all sizes, a nursery for newborns, whelping rooms for moms about to deliver, isolation areas for the sick, and a clinic space for medical treatmentwe waited in the dark between the two temporary shelter buildings for the first truck to arrive. We were told to expect about 150 dogs and puppies in the first wave.

RedRover Responders volunteers prepare crates for the dogs' arrival.

From the moment the truck door opened the group became a focused hive of activity. As dogs were offloaded they were catalogued and deployed to various parts of the shelter depending on their size, age, medical condition, and if they had pups. Looking into the crates as we gingerly carried or carted each one, what we saw was heart-breaking; scared, anxious, tired dogs with a host of medical conditions.

The anxious, tired dogs suffered from a host of medical conditions.

"This was not only the largest dog rescue in Canadian history, but it also involved some of the most inhumane conditions that our Animal Rescue Team has ever encountered,” said Lauren Scott, from HSI.

We worked all night and into the morning to finish that first truck. Most of that night is a blur to me now. I recall the over-riding sense of urgency to get these dogs into their temporary homes – not only out of concern for them and wanting to get them into more comfortable conditions, but also because we knew there were more trucks to come and those trucks were going to be just as full. 

Shelter building #2: medium breed dogs.

Over the next couple of days we unloaded another two full 18-wheelers, with a dash of sleep and a quick bite in between each one. Day blurred into night and back to daylight again. Staff and volunteers seemed tireless as they managed the intake of an astonishing array of breeds; from tiny, delicate, shivering Maltese moms with pups so small they looked like baby gerbils, to huge St. Bernards with skeptical eyes and crates so large they needed a team to carry them, and seemingly every size and breed of dog in between.

Volunteers provided comfort and care for the scared dogs.

From the moment a dog was brought into the shelter the virtually-endless cycle of care started and everyone had a list of tasks to keep them busy. Cleaning crates, feeding, providing fresh water, getting dogs and puppies to the vet for assessments, and documenting every step for use in the pending cruelty case against the owners of the breeding facility. This work consumed us for days and often followed us into our dreams at night.

RedRover Responders volunteer Howard tending to some of the many puppies born before and after the dogs were seized.

As with all deployments, RedRover Responders volunteers came to Lachute, Québec ready to do whatever necessary to bring animals from crisis to care. One year later, we know we participated in a landmark animal cruelty case that will have a positive impact on generations of animals.

To learn more about the Paws R Seizure, check out these resources:

Friday, September 30, 2011

RedRover Responders Wrap Up in Quebec

Over 40 RedRover Responders volunteers helped set up and operate the emergency shelter in LaChute, Quebec, to care for over 500 dogs and puppies seized from a large-scale breeding operation. On Sunday, September 25, RedRover demobilized, and Humane Society International (HSI) Canada continued the care of the rescued animals.

HSI-Canada relied extensively on the hard work and expertise of the RedRover Responders. Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of HSI-Canada said, "I've never worked with such professional, dedicated, and hardworking volunteers. It was truly inspiring to work in their presence. More than 500 dogs owe their lives and well-being to the RedRover volunteers." Rebecca added that she hopes to work with RedRover Responders again in the future.

As of this date, the court case against the owners and operators of the breeding operation is pending. However, Rebecca Aldworth said, "I am very confident about the case, and optimistic we can get each of these dogs into a home."

Because the court case is pending, the information that can be released about the animals is limited. However, there was some good news we can share -- the shipment of Kuranda dog beds, donated by Jamieson Laboratories, arrived at the shelter. Each one of the dogs now has his or her own bed -- providing comfort and support, as well as getting the dog off the ground. While some dogs eyed them warily -- possibly never having seen or lain on a bed before -- others hopped in right away. Rebecca Aldworth said, "The big dogs hopped onto them and really enjoy them."

Volunteers returning home from this deployment are reflecting on their experiences. For volunteer Jennifer Rose, from Winchester, Ontario, this was her first deployment. It was especially meaningful to her as she was aware of the particular breeding operation from which the dogs were rescued.

While regretting the need for such a deployment, Jennifer said, "I loved every minute of it. It was a very good experience." The physical labor was exhausting, and the experience was "emotional." Additionally, the sheer numbers of animals was a revelation to Jennifer. "I don't think anyone can imagine what 537 dogs is really like," she said. "It's hard to fathom that many animals," she said, and the amount of work it takes to care for them.

This was volunteer Ruth Garretson's first deployment in Canada. Ruth, who is from Virginia, loved the chance to work with Canadian volunteers. "I thought they were wonderful, and amazingly hard workers."

Volunteer Brenda Bunn, from Peterborough, Ontario, fell for a younger Keeshond during her deployment. "I'd talk to him, but he'd turn his head away -- he was too nervous." Brenda continued her efforts to socialize the young dog throughout her time at the shelter. When moving the dog up to a higher kennel, Brenda tried again, and said to him, "What do you think, should we move you up to a room with a view?" Brenda said, "He turned and looked at me and smiled. My heart just melted. This is why we do what we do."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Considering the hours

Today has been more of the same 1,000 kilometers-per-hour pace of feeding, cleaning, monitoring and more to keep the rescued dogs comfortable and safe. One news article (below) reported yesterday that 90 puppies -- and counting -- have been born at the temporary emergency shelter since the dogs' rescue. It's hard to imagine keeping track of all those pregnant mamas, nursing mamas, delivering mamas... and all their darling bundles of joy.

The breakneck pace that RedRover Responders volunteers are keeping just to keep up with the basic needs and comforts of these animals is especially mindboggling when compared with most commercial breeding conditions.  We don't know how many employees were caretaking these animals before they were rescued, but it was allegedly inadequate.

What we do know is that there have been anywhere from 12 to 22 RedRover Responders volunteers on-site each day along with community volunteers, working from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Using an average of 15 volunteers per day and an 11 hour workday, you can estimate that it would take 1,155 hours per week to provide our standard of basic care to these dogs, or the equivalent of 28 full time staff. That only amounts to about two hours per dog. Would your dog tolerate only two hours of attention each

Links to news updates:

Montreal Gazette: Seized kennel puppies get their bark back
All 527 Dogs seized near Ottawa to be offered for adoption after inspection reports 90 puppies - and counting - born to dogs seized from Quebec kennel

According to the above link, if you would like to volunteer or adopt a dog, email with the subject line "interested in volunteering with dogs" or "interested in adopting a dog." Volunteers and potential adoptees in the Montreal area are most needed at this time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

We'll take our puppy kisses to go, please

Deployments are always physically challenging. The very nature of the work we do -- temporary emergency animal sheltering -- means lots of bending and lifting and scrubbing and walking. Repeat until done. Then do it again the next day. It is exhausting work, but the reward of helping the helpless makes it worthwhile.

This deployment is a particularly busy and physically demanding one. Even with the largest team of RedRover Responders volunteers deployed so far in 2011, volunteers are feeling the pressure of taking care of 545 dogs and counting. A total of 35 RedRover Responders volunteers have deployed so far, and there will be at least 5 more RedRover Responders volunteers deployed before our team is through. A large contingent of volunteers are from the Montreal area, and others have traveled from Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Maryland, Virginia and Ontario. The RedRover Responders volunteer team is acting as the main sheltering crew, with some help from local shelter affiliates.

By this stage in the deployment, day 6, volunteers would normally blog about the individual animals and their personalities, and tell their stories. However, with the huge number of animals that RedRover Responders volunteers are caring for, the day is so long and so full of moment-to-moment activity that volunteers simply haven't had the time to revel in puppy kisses and develop favorite animals, let alone sit down and write their stories.

The volunteers' focus, as always, is on giving the dogs the best care they can receive in the temporary shelter environment. Starting on the first evening the dogs arrived after their long trek from the breeding operation, litters of puppies are being born at the shelter, making the total number of dogs a moving target. All the nursing moms require extra attention to make sure they are eating and getting the support they need to care for their litters. Older puppies are carefully introduced to soft, solid food as they become ready. The work demands attention to detail, and on a large scale.

A press conference was held today, and some updates have been published in the media:
Thank you RedRover Responders volunteers, once again you are doing an amazing job in a challenging situation, making the best of the available resources and keeping the animals' needs first.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Low on Sleep, High on Puppy Kisses

RedRover Responders volunteers haven't gotten much sleep for the past few days. After volunteers spent a couple days setting up the temporary emergency animal shelter to prepare for the criminal seizure of more than 500 dogs from a breeding operation in Quebec, the first truck from the field rescue team arrived around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. More than 20 RedRover Responders volunteers set to work unloading about 150 dogs and getting them settled into their new digs at the emergency shelter, complete with dry bedding, clean water and fresh food.
Unloading the first truckload of 150 dogs at 3:30 a.m.
Photo courtesy Kathy Milani/The HSUS

As each truckload of dogs came in, the unloading continued. Volunteers noticed the dogs suffered from skin and respiratory problems, and were also struck by the variety of the breeds present – from Chihuahuas to Great Danes. The work continued well into the wee hours of the morning before volunteers finally were able to get a few hours’ rest. Then, they got up in the morning and went right back to work. Exhaustion is just a little easier to bear when the volunteers know that more than 150 young puppies and more than 350 older dogs will be there to greet them at the shelter, eager to receive the volunteers’ loving care.

A RedRover Responders volunteer snuggles an armful of puppies.
Photo courtesy Kathy Milani/The HSUS
 See news reports here:
The investigation is a joint effort between Humane Society International Canada and provincial and local authorities.

Learn more about puppy mills on RedRover's website.