2010-09-15 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

First the rant: I am so sick of animal hoarders. I am sick of hearing that these people are sick. A diagnosis of mental illness does nothing to mitigate the suffering of the animal victims. Why can’t the deranged collect Barbies or stamps rather than living, breathing pets that depend on humans for the basics like food, water and the simplest- clean air?

Each time you think you have encountered the worst case of hoarding- (there were two this summer in Babylon a cat neighborhood nightmare and a dog/cat stockpiling by four generations of women); another comes along to topple the wretched record. The latest seizure is mind boggling. On Sept. 1, after the fire alarms were set off by the overwhelming ammonia stench of urine, Suffolk SPCA removed 115 tiny, free-roaming dogs trapped inside a house, so desperate they were fighting over water provided by firemen. The spacious West Hills dwelling on seven acres in Huntington, devoid of furniture, was strewn with waste and carcasses of dogs found too late. Sadly ironic, the property is part of the former Plimpton estate, an aristocratic American dynasty. It is even reported that Jackie Kennedy played there as a child.

“Pepe” - one of the 115 Huntington Hoarders’ dogs. “Pepe” - one of the 115 Huntington Hoarders’ dogs. An emaciated, lame pony, three goats and a cat were also rescued. I will spare you grizzly details disclosed by rescuers at the scene. The home owner, Michael Gladstein, a dermatologist, yes, a dermatologist, and his receptionist/wife Marilyn were arrested; and thus far, charged only with felony abuse of the pony. More charges are pending. The house, now structurally unsound, was condemned by the Town of Huntington. At the press conference last Friday, Roy Gross, SPCA Chief stated: “There is no excuse for this and it will not be tolerated.” Though they are innocent until proven guilty, I made sure Gladstein was not a participating provider in my plan. Could the DA’s office please look into revoking his medical license?

And now for the positive part of the saga: The“saving” is a cooperative effort. Firemen and police were at the scene alongside the SPCA. Housing 115 dogs, even small ones, is a huge intrusion on any town shelter. These dogs, all randomly bred permutations of Pomeranian, Chihuahua, Yorkie and possibly Maltese were scared out of their wits. (Wouldn’t a doctor understand basic biology? Shouldn’t a dermatologist have the means to spay/neuter the dogs that produced this pyramid?)

In the midst of this mayhem, many rescues, individuals and shelters worked together to expedite the comfort, T.L.C. and placement of the dozens of little waifs. Thefirst fortunate pairing was coincidental. Brooke and Ashlie of Almost Home Rescue happened to be nearby pet-sitting when the helicopters flew overhead. They waited several hours while the SPCA got the warrant. By the time the SPCA was allowed to enter, six Almost Home volunteers were there to assist in the removal. Parts of the house were completely dark. The last dogs weren’t settled at the shelter until around 4 am.

Since Almost Home (www.almosthomeli.org) does extensive pet outreach in Wyandanch, they are adept at animal triage. Almost Home mobilized a network of foster homes, including taking some lactating moms and puppies, although it was impossible to match up litters with mothers. Almost Home also helped the SPCA with grooming. The group’s president, Linda, asked other rescues to band together to help the West Hills pups. Presently 28 are in Almost Home’s care. Some are already spayed/neutered and ready for forever homes. Meanwhile, Second Chance of Farmingville which has aided SPCA in other cases is fostering about 30 dogs.

Upon seizure, the remaining dogs were split up between Huntington Shelter and the SPCA mobile hospital parked at the town shelter. SPCA agents Flo and Nicole were in charge of the operation. They, alongside the League for Animal Protection volunteers who promote Huntington Shelter animals, tended to the dogs in the SPCA van (Suffolk SPCA is all volunteer too.) The dogs were numbered and named. In a week’s time, many were making emotional progress.

Then, Little Shelter of Huntington (www.littlshelter. com) came for 25 dogs, and I selected a few for Last Hope (www.lasthopeanimalrescue.org). We were lining up foster homes because we didn’t think they would fare well in runs at our Dog Center. By then, about 25 were left in the van. How do you choose? I looked for a reason to single a few out. “Grayson” a Yorkie has a huge mass requiring surgery; “Rose” a Pom mix needs dentistry; “Waggy” a Maltese mix rolled over to have his belly rubbed; and “Pepe” a Pom mix nicknamed the “dog in denial” because he would face the back of his cage reminded me of my Edgar Afghan Poe when he arrived from a New Mexico hoarder.

On Friday when the SPCA van went away, the dogs left behind would be joining those inside Huntington Shelter (the initial shelter group has tentative homes), so Linda of Almost Home took three more including a tough Pom and frightened “Kahuna” because Bonnie (Babylon Shelter retired) offered to take him as her second West Hills foster. I grabbed “Pinky” for Last Hope since she was petrified and shaved down like a baldy bean. Both Flo and Nicole took home a dog. Then Little Shelter came for the remaining eight, so no additional dogs were left at Huntington Shelter.

Meanwhile, Chris, the Babylon Shelter director and Kris, manager of VCA, arranged a veterinary “pajama party” for the Last Hope Five who were welcomed at Aldrich Animal Hospital where they received inoculations, exams and heartworm tests and spent the night before being picked up by their foster parents. The pups have discounted neuters waiting for them at Aldrich when ready.

Two of my own dogs came from horrible hoarders. They are so happy now but tinges of the past break through once in a while. It takes time and patience for dogs to rise above the Post-Traumatic Hoarder Syndrome. The West Hills dogs will improve. Some are more shell-shocked; some need more time to master housebreaking, but all will bask in the love showered upon them. If you are interested in a West Hills dog, please contact Almost Home, Little Shelter or Last Hope.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (643- 9270) Lamar St. W.Babylon: As usually happens, hoarders’ dogs and cats displace the pets already waiting in town shelters. Babylon’s hoarder upstaging this summer has been more of a cat surplus, so one poster pet is an overlooked cat-“Sweetie” #20297, a muted calico in the Cat Colony, and the other is an overlooked dog-“Blue” a gentle 6 year old Shepherd/Hound mix #93487. “Blue” is in Cage 2. That rhymes!

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