They huddled together in their kennels – unsure of what was coming next. The 30 Chihuahuas came in to the Animal Rescue League of Berks County in Mohnton on Friday, part of a group of nearly 200 Chihuahuas rescued from an animal hoarder in Columbia County, Pa.
The dogs – all with the same coloring, had to first undergo an initial assessment to look for any obvious medical issues and to make an estimate of each dog's age. They were then given vaccinations and placed together in kennels with soft bedding – and each other – to await their forever homes.
ARL Director of Development Ashley Mikulsky said the dogs ranged in ages from one to 10 years old, with 10 boys and 20 girls coming in to the ARL. She said six of the older dogs went into the ARL's Grey Muzzle Foster program, which focuses on older dogs. Three others were sent to rescues, and the rest went up for adoption Monday morning.
Mikulsky said the dogs did really well over the weekend, and she added that the ARL has already received several inquiries about adopting the dogs.
'They actually did better than we thought they might,' she said. 'Most of them have come full circle. They are very friendly, although a few of them are still a little shy. But they really made a quick turn-around.'
Mikulsky added that dogs that are in hoarding situations often have medical issues and are not socialized. But she said the group that came in to the ARL were not aggressive with each other or ARL staff. While they were clearly nervous waiting for their initial evaluations, they allowed ARL staff to handle them. She did say several of the older dogs will require some dental work.
Mikulsky said that one way residents can help the dogs is to make a contribution to the ARL's Noel Fund – a fund used to provide medical care for animals in need.
'In the end, we were able to help them,' she added.
The Chihuahuas were voluntarily turned over to officials by the owner on July 19, and then taken to shelters across the state, including the ARL and the Humane Society of Berks County.
'This is one of the worst cases of animal hoarding we've seen in Pennsylvania, but through the efficient work of dog wardens, state and county animal response teams and local animal shelters, the dogs are one step closer to finding healthy forever homes,' said Executive Deputy Secretary Mike Pechart, who oversees dog law enforcement activities at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
After being removed from the home, the dogs were signed over to local rescue organizations and housed overnight at a temporary emergency shelter at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg before being transported to shelters.
Medical care was provided by Agriculture Department veterinarians and state, Dauphin County and Perry County animal response teams provided support. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections supplied towels for bedding.
'The swift action to get the dogs into a safe situation would not have been possible without funds raised from dog license sales, which support the Dog Law Enforcement Office,' said Pechart.
Pennsylvania state law requires that all dogs three months or older be licensed each year. Dog licenses are available at county treasurer's offices.
To confidentially report unsatisfactory conditions at a home or kennel, or if a kennel is suspected of operating illegally, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's toll-free tip line at 877-DOG-TIP1.