Extreme weather has meant extreme cases of animal neglect

February 19, 2014
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Emily Petsko / Observer-Reporter
Timber was brought to Washington Area Humane Society after he was found tied to a wall inside an abandoned home. He is one of many dogs up for adoption after being saved from frigid conditions this winter. Order a Print
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Emily Petsko / Observer-Reporter
Andrea Tomsic, a volunteer at Angel Ridge Animal Rescue, pets Marty, a dog who needs a new home after being found out in the cold. Order a Print

Marty and Valentino got their names for the days on which they were rescued. Before these energetic dogs were brought to Angel Ridge Animal Rescue in Washington on the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. (Jan. 15) and Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), they were in pain and afraid.

Marty and Valentino are just two dogs who survived without shelter or proper care this winter. While many cats and dogs were rescued and made a full recovery in local shelters, some still await adoption.

Nancy Shannon, director of Angel Ridge, said her shelter took in 12 dogs since January that were “literally freezing to death” outside. She said some were chained to outside structures and were even frozen to the ground.

“When it’s cold outside, we go into our warm house and cuddle up in a blanket, and I can’t imagine doing that knowing I had pets outside that were in danger of freezing to death,” Shannon said. “This winter is the worst I remember in a long, long time.”

To help pay for veterinary costs, the shelter will host a bingo event at 1:30 p.m. April 6 at the Mt. Pleasant Township fire hall. Tickets are $20 at the door and $18 in advance.

Valentino, a hound, was found in Greene County, and Shannon said his was the most extreme case this winter. His ribs were protruding, and he was so weak he had to be carried into the shelter.

“He could have died if he hadn’t been brought here,” Shannon said, adding that he quickly regained his strength. “He’s doing great. He’s putting on the weight, and he’s on antibiotics.”

Similarly, Marty – who was born with only three legs – was frightened and emaciated when he was found by an animal control officer in Washington County, but he happily runs and plays outside now.

The shelter, located in Chartiers Township, also took in five newborn puppies from Ohio, in addition to their mother, who was chained outside. All of the dogs, including the mother, were adopted.

Volunteer Andrea Tomsic said “you would never know” that the dogs were abused and neglected, and “they just want to be loved.”

Washington Area Humane Society also received an influx of animals this winter, and the shelter remains full.

Laurelle Dicks, general manager, said they received about a dozen dogs and cats that were left in the cold. A retriever-chow mix was kept in a plastic dog box on a day when wind chills hit minus-30 degrees, and its fur was “matted with ice,” said humane officer Logan Wade. Two abandoned cats were brought in Tuesday.

Wade said the shelter met more prospective pet owners recently, but added that does not necessarily translate into more adoptions.

At Greene County Humane Society, director Jane Gapen said some of the dogs in the shelter are in limbo while the owners from whom the pets were taken navigate the legal system to determine if they can regain ownership. Gapen said they also saw their share of extreme cases.

“The vet’s comment was, ‘This is the skinniest dog I’ve ever seen that was still alive,’” Gapen said of one recent adoption.

While there is still space in the shelter, Gapen said they couldn’t legally take every dog that was kept outdoors this winter.

“The sad thing is … if we went there (to the owner’s house), and the dog had some sort of box and had food and water and its weight was OK, there’s no power in the law that says you have to take it in your house,” Gapen said. “That was the heartbreak for us.”

To contact Angel Ridge about animal adoptions, call 724-229-7053. To reach the Humane Society in Washington or Waynesburg, call 724-222-7387 or 724-627-9988, respectively.

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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