Shelter manager: Rescued dogs were in 'deplorable' state

Sarah Eames | The Daily Star Erin Insinga, shelter manager at the Delaware Valley Humane Society, holds a pair of collars worn by dogs rescued Wednesday from a barn in Franklin, where they were kept in the cages pictured.

SIDNEY — Twenty dogs rescued from derelict conditions Wednesday in Franklin are receiving care and treatment at three local shelters.

“In my 15 years of rescue, I have never seen conditions this deplorable,” said Delaware Valley Humane Society shelter manager Erin Insinga, who responded to the scene with deputies from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office to collect the dogs. “These are things I wish I could unsee.”

Insinga said she was tipped off about the situation by a local acquaintance and contacted deputies, whom she said acted “swiftly and professionally” in responding to the scene.

Deputies discovered the dogs crammed two or three to a crate, stacked four high in a barn less than 50 yards from the Franklin residence, which Insinga described as “seemingly very normal, at first.”

“We had no idea what we were getting into,” she said. “Imagine the worst thing you’ve ever seen and multiply it by 10.”

The dogs were transported back to the shelter in a caravan that included deputies, dog control officers from Hamden, Walton, Unadilla and Sidney, and volunteers using their personal vehicles, Insinga said.

Six dogs were brought to the Susquehanna SPCA and seven were taken in by the Broome County Humane Society, while the remaining seven will stay at the Delaware Valley Humane Society.

The three shelters are members of the New York State Animal Protection Federation, which provides a network of professional support and a wealth of resources to help shelters care for animals in crisis, Insinga said.

The dogs will be quarantined as they are evaluated and treated for any medical or behavioral issues by local veterinarians and animal experts, Insinga said. Because the shelter does not have a vet on staff, it relies on volunteer services.

Dr. Matthew Culverwell, a veterinarian at Compassionate Care Veterinary Hospital in Norwich, arrived at the Sidney shelter Thursday afternoon to treat the dogs for emaciation and injuries he described as severe.

“Based on my experiences with animal cruelty cases, those dogs we witnessed coming out of their crates were victims of some sort of dog fighting,” said Stacie Haynes, executive director of the SQSPCA. “They all have injuries and scars consistent with dog fighting.”

The dogs acted scared and shy, she said, and when approached by people, crouched down and tucked their tails between their legs.

“That’s not your typical dog response,” Haynes said.

Haynes said the breeds of the dogs found — shepherds and pit bulls — were also indicative of dog-fighting activity.

“It wasn’t like they were golden retrievers,” she said.

Haynes said SQSPCA staff are accustomed to taking in animals that have been neglected as the result of their owners’ health issues or inability to care for them.

“This has been a very eye-opening experience for all of us,” she said. “Somebody purposefully being cruel to an animal is really hard to imagine.”

Shelter staff and veterinarians are tasked with carefully recording the temperature, weight, scars and injuries of each dog for later use as potential evidence in any criminal proceedings brought against the former owner, who has yet to be named by police as the investigation continues.

Both Insinga and Culverwell said they have years of experience handling such cases, but rarely see the owners of the abused, neglected or abandoned animals brought to justice.

“The laws are there, there’s just not enforcement,” Culverwell said. “How many pets are we going to let go through this before we say enough is enough?” 

“What’s really heartbreaking for me is the fact that these animals have every reason not to trust humans and to hate them, but quite the opposite — they have been loving, affectionate, trusting, gentle — every single one of them,” Insinga said. “We are not going to stop until some type of justice is served for these animals.”

The Delaware Valley Humane Society is requesting donations of all-purpose cleaner, bleach, twist mops, laundry detergent, dry and wet dog food, blankets, toys and dewormer medication.

Monetary donations may be made via PayPal at dvhsny.org and sqspca.org.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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