2014-07-30 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Whenever you think you’ve seen the worst that people can do to pets, the next case trumps the rest. On TV last week, you may have noticed “Ziggy,” the severely matted schmoo supposedly found in an empty Lindenhurst house and taken to Babylon Shelter on July 17. He was unrecognizable as a dog until the shelter staff spent three hours shaving off four pounds of mats and a sweet 11-pound black Shih tzu emerged.

Each time a local dog or cat is rescued from dire circumstances (which is far too often), three thoughts pop into my head: 1) Thank goodness the pet is safe now and will get care. 2) What monster did this to a helpless animal? and 3) If this horrific situation exists, how many more tortured, neglected or suffering pets are still waiting to be discovered?

This “Pets” will focus on that last frightening thought because not even Stephen King could conjure up nightmares like those endured by some recent shelter residents. Dogs in peril can’t call 911 and rarely escape. The first four cases occurred this summer. Details have been omitted because of ongoing investigations and pet witness protection. Each dog below was allegedly discovered by a chance encounter which is often how neglected animals are saved:

•“Ziggy” was so matted that he could barely walk, see or relieve himself. He has been at New York Veterinary Specialists in Farmingdale since his shelter shavedown where he is receiving physical therapy to help him regain mobility. He is estimated to be about six years old. Looking at his matted state, it would be fair to say he had never been groomed. He was a reasonable weight so someone was feeding him since a dog this matted could never fend for himself. Despite his tortured life, Ziggy is sociable and loves to be carried around the hospital. It’s unclear how long Ziggy was at the 131 S. Seventh Street home. Suffolk SPCA (631-382-7722) is offering a $2,000 reward for information about the person responsible.

•“Wheezy,” another matted Shih tzu mix, was found by someone walking in a wooded Wyandanch lot. The pup was tied to a tree by a bicycle inner tube attached to a shoelace, intentionally tied there; not a dog that broke loose with a dragging leash that tangled on brush. The shelter whisked Wheezy to the vet where she was anesthetized for her grooming and subsequent spay, her leg bandaged where the mats had painfully adhered to her skin. Imagine if the finder had not strolled in the woods.

•“Lucky’s” name is debatable. Is she lucky? This eight-year-old Border Collie was saved because a tow truck driver passing by Copiague property heard a dog with her leg caught in the fence scream in pain. The desperate gal was confined to a filthy, makeshift pen with a barricaded door. The dog was confiscated by the shelter and SPCA when an elderly clergyman owner could not find the key to the lock. Who knows the last time someone was in her pen? Food was probably thrown over the fence. Perhaps water was hosed in. She was matted, underweight and so frightened by the unfamiliar feel of a tile floor or walls inside the shelter kennel. After years of solitary confinement, she tends to do frustrated fence fighting when other dogs pass or approach her, making it difficult to find a Border Collie rescue that can take her. Her agony would have been prolonged if the truck driver hadn’t heeded her cry.

•The “Papillons” appeared on rescue radar because of Last Hope’s free rabies clinics. Each year we host one at Last Hope in Wantagh and one at Babylon Shelter. A Mastic lady has shown up with a car full of Papillons several times. We alerted Brookhaven Shelter with our concerns. I was familiar with her street because I taught in that neighborhood many years. In June she arrived with 21 Papillons, knew each one by name and waited patiently for her turn. This time Brookhaven was having a free clinic the same day so her appearance was more disconcerting. Brookhaven Shelter was notified again. An ACO paid a visit to the home which was, found to be structurally unsafe and condemned by the Town that day. The owner surrendered 37 Papillons to the shelter so she could find alternative housing for herself.

Unlike other backyard breeder cases, most of these tiny dogs were outgoing. Ten went to Little Shelter, six to Papillon Rescue and three to Last Hope (wish we pulled more). The rest were adopted to the public after vet exams and spay/neuter.

Animal hoarding is a mental illness but, sadly, the individual collects living, breathing beings that suffer immensely. Why can’t hoarders collect Barbies or stamps? On LI we’ve had extreme hoarding cases involving a dermatologist and his wife, a veterinarian and a nurse. No profession is immune.

Tip-offs vary. Sometimes pet victims are discovered when a hoarder gets ill or dies. In the Huntington dermatologist case, urine fumes from 114 dogs set off alarms and the fire department responded to the scene (estate property where Jackie Kennedy played as a child). In 2003 when 33 dogs were abandoned at the Lindenhurst address where my Toy Spaniel mix “Charlotte” was born, the owner’s friend mentioned to a kennel attendant that there were dead dogs in the house. If she hadn’t walked them into the shelter parking lot, 27 dogs would not have survived. Imagine how many hoarder pets are secretly suffering at this moment.

Last winter a homeless man looking for bottles pulled a Cockapoo from a West Islip dumpster. It’s been reported that an Islip shelter worker paid by the owner to take two dogs to the shelter callously tossed her there. The Poodle possibly discarded in Babylon was not as fortunate. How many other pets have met such a horrific fate? Yes, the thought gives me nightmares.

For Adoption at Babylon Animal Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Wynona” 14-418, a Shepherd mix resembling an overgrown Pug, is playful with people and other dogs, while handsome “Carlisle” 4-203, a tuxedo kitten, is from “Twilight”-inspired triplets.

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