Eagle County animal advocate helps save llama, other animals
Special to the Daily
Editor’s Note: Eagle Valley Humane Society Director Char Quinn shares her journal from her trip to North Carolina to rescue 200 animals ” including dogs, horses, guinea pigs, sugar gliders and a llama ” that had been “hoarded” on a single property.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. ” Today I am on my way to Charlotte, N.C., to join Amer ican Humane Society’s Red Star Team to assist the Lin coln County Sheriff’s Depart ment in Denver, N.C. (That’s right, Denver!) Our assign ment is to assist with a search and seizure in a hoarding case and then arrange hous ing for the rescued animals.
There are approximately 200 various species of animals on the property, according to our information. Today and tomor row we will prepare a shelter for the rescued animals.
Seven more Red Star Team members arrived tonight along with the Rescue Rig.
The Rig will be our home for the duration of the mission.
Next to the Rig is an 80,000 square-foot warehouse where we will shelter and care for the animals we seize.
We continue to prepare the warehouse for the arrival of the animals under close public scrutiny. We had to be incogni to to keep people in the dark because the warrant will not be served until tomorrow.
Our 82-foot-long Rig got a lot of attention and a lot of questions followed about what we were doing there. Our cover story was that the Rig went all over the country and that we were just passing through. We did not wear our commando-looking uniforms out in public either.
Tonight the rest of the team arrived ” eight more people from all over the country. These eight people will be the team assigned to the temporary shel ter to receive the animals.
This morning we had a briefing with the sheriff and the fire department about how the search-and-seizure warrant would go down. Our team had to wait down the road for about 45 minutes while the warrant was served.
We had four transport trail ers that would go back and forth from the seizure site to the warehouse as we loaded all the animals. We really did not know what to expect from the animals’ behaviors and attitudes. The first thing that we noticed on the scene was the horrific smell. The whole prop erty was infested with bees and hornets. It poured rain the entire day ” it was not com fortable being soaked to the bone, but it was better than 90-degree heat and humidity beating down on us. As a bonus, the rain subdued the bees and hornets. To start off, one team went into the house to get the birds and dogs. We initially heard there were 40 birds and three or four dogs to load in crates.
I was part of the second team. Our job was to get the five horses loaded and off to the new shelter. While we were working on the horses and had two in halters ready to be loaded, the stud colt broke through the flimsy fence and went after one of the other horses. Luckily, he was still con tained, but it took a little while for one of our team members, Diane, to get a halter on him.
She got the other two horses loaded and was working on the third when I went back to help Shelly get the stud pony and a big paint around to the other side of the property where another trailer was waiting.
We walked the two horses out to the trailer. Both horses loaded well into the trailer and off they went.
We had no idea the local media were taking pictures and video of everything we did. We only found out when we saw it on the evening news and in the newspapers the next day.
We came back to help with the situation in the house because there were not only three or four dogs in the house, there were 66 dogs, plus a few cats. It took quite a while to get all the animals documented, loaded and on their way.
The intact male llama was my next project. Somehow I ended up being the one to have to put a makeshift halter on him. We were pleasantly sur prised that he was very sweet and loved attention. He loaded into the trailer easily. We still had no idea how many animals we were dealing with.
Next up were the chickens, duck and goats. Since I have chickens at home I was sent in to round them up with Shelly.
Most of them were hungry so it was easy to throw some food in a dog crate and watch them walk in. The remaining ducks and chickens we herded into another crate.
We had to grab the six goats and lift them over the fence to put them in crates. I looked at the goats a couple of days later and wondered how in the world I had lifted them over the fence. We were so busy we did not realize the media was still filming us through holes in the fence. Next on our list was the “cat house.” This was the most disgusting place on the site.
Forty cats crammed into small cages with a 100 mice, gerbils, rats, guinea pigs and sugar gliders stacked on top. The “cat house” was about 6-feet by 5 feet. The smell was horrid.
It took a while to haul all of the rodent cages out ” we had to leave them in their original cages and clean them later. The cats allowed us to pick them up and put them into cages. After they were all transported, there were still about 90 dogs left to handle.We were informed that a thunderstorm with tornados was on the way and we had about an hour to get the dogs loaded and out of there.
We headed to the dogs and to our amazement they were very cooperative. We only had to use a catchpole on two of them that did not want to be on a leash. Both dogs turned out to be great after we got them to the temporary shelter. Other than one husky busting out of a crate three times, even after we zip-tied it, everything went quickly and smoothly and we were finished by 7 p.m.
The owners of the animals watched us as we worked and were cooperative. They took pictures of everything we did.
We were soaked to the skin from the six inches of rain, but now we had to go help the rest of the team finish setting up the shelter at the warehouse. We helped for about an hour and then our commander, Tracy, sent all of us home for the evening. It felt good to get out of our wet clothes. We knew we were in for a long day tomorrow.
We were ready to start at 8 a.m.
” all of us wearing Tyvek suits and other protective gear. The dogs had all been put in wire crates and we knew they were going to be a mess. We needed to build appro priate housing for a lot of the other animals and provide separate male and female quarters for the majori ty of the species. We started with cleaning, feeding and watering the dogs. I came upon a 3-month old puppy that was lethargic and rushed her to the veterinarian. The poor thing could not even hold up her head. Fortunately, she was just hypoglycemic and bounced back immediately with some honey. The little puppy would get so excited every time she saw me ” it was pretty cute.
It took us hours to take care of all 160 of these animals. Every cage tray had to be scrubbed. We were lucky there was a drain in the warehouse where we could clean everything close to the dogs. Bar bara loved pocket pets and she took over cleaning and caring for all the mice, rats, guinea pigs and sugar gliders. The rest of us were glad to relinquish that responsibili ty to Barbara, especially me.
I got assigned to chicken and duck duty again. They were still in a crate and we needed to build a pen. Marlene and I built an odd looking, but safe pen for them with chicken wire, snow fence to keep it covered, and zip ties to secure it.
The majority of our day was spent cleaning and caring for the dogs. Out of the 160 dogs, we only had to put caution signs on three.
They were not aggressive, just scared to death. Kelly, the veteri narian, had been treating the emer gencies and was starting to evaluate and treat the rest of the animals. We were hoping to start bathing the dogs, but there was not any time. We moved a few cats, dogs and rabbits into the maternity ward, some were about to give birth and three of the dogs already had very young puppies. We did not finish until 12:30 p.m.
I was exhausted and we still did not have any towels or blankets to put in with the dogs. The poor things were a mess. The media came to our rescue today and were making pleas to the public for donations for all the animals. We were soon to see donations start coming in!
After about five hours of sleep we were ready to start a new day.
All the animals had to be cleaned up and fed. I had to feed the goats, llama, ducks, chickens and rabbits and then help with the dogs. It was raining again and that kept things cooler for us and the animals.
The animals had not been decontaminated yet, so we still had to wear the tyvek suits, which are terribly hot. Many of the dogs were in crates with other dogs, so to feed them we had to separate them.
This was quite a chore since some of the crates had five small dogs. It would take several of us just to feed one group, which caused it to take almost the entire day to feed and clean all the animals.
In the afternoon our first local volunteers began to arrive. At first they slowed us down, but it was such a relief to have help. The dogs had done well, but we did have our first “panic attack.” We were feeding five Chihuahuas and terri ers that we still had to separate to feed. I had one of the little Chi huahuas on a leash with her food and she panicked and started screaming and biting at the leash. I had to yell to stop one of the local volunteers from picking up the dog. She reached down and tried to grab her as she was snapping around. I got on the ground and tried to coax the dog toward me.
It is so sad to see them when they panic. All of a sudden she leaped into my arms and I was able to get the leash off of her. After she calmed down, I put her in a crate by herself to eat her food. I apologized to the local volunteer for yelling, but explained that the dog would have bitten her because she was so panicked. The goats kept squeezing out of the horse panels and snow fence. Barry, a local volunteer, and I had to add chicken wire to keep them in. The livestock veterinarian had come out to examine all the livestock so the horses could go to a horse res cue sanctuary. They were the first to leave for foster care. Donations poured in all day from the local people and we now had pads that we could put in with all the dogs and cats. We did not finish caring for all the animals until 1:30 a.m.
We didn’t really appreciate all the rain until today! ” it was 90 degrees, sunny and very humid. At first we were excited about the sun, but that did not last long. We had about three hours of sleep and we were losing three of our team members who had to leave for New Orleans.
The Rescue Rig was also getting ready to leave, so we would be staying in a hotel for the remainder of the deployment. I went to care for all of the livestock before helping with the dogs.
A man from a local rescue group arrived to pick up the goats and someone was coming later for all the rodents. We were very excited about that! Unfortunately, the man was scared of the llama so I had to catch and load the five goats first. After he saw that the llama did not seem bothered he came in to help catch the last billy goat. I felt bad that the llama was left alone.
We had many local volunteers caring for the dogs that we finished quickly. Todd and I had to get all the rodent’s paperwork prepared for them so they could move to a local shelter. The rodent cages were the only cages from the scene itself and despite Barbara’s cleaning efforts, they still reeked.
I started with one of the guinea pig cages and there was a little fuzzy thing outside of the cage on the ground and another one inside. I did a double take and realized they were two newborn guinea pigs. There were six adults in the cage so we had to figure out who the mother was. We loaded up all of the rodents and they were ready to go to their new shelter.
We had our second dog bite today from one of the rat terriers. It was a local volunteer who grabbed a fearful dog. He had to go into quarantine. After that we decided that only American humane team members could handle the dogs and local volunteers would have to go through a screening process to qualify to handle them. It was a good precaution because there were no more bites after that.
A fowl rescue group came and took the chickens, ducks and the goose to foster care. I missed them leaving and I was a little disappointed that I did not get to say goodbye. I knew they were going to be well cared for at the foster home, though.
Now all that were left were the dogs, cats, bunnies and the llama. Thanks to all of the local help, we were able to finish by 8 p.m. Several local groomers came in and shaved and bathed all of the dogs. This helped the dogs get quiet and relaxed, and they certainly smelled a lot better!
We all went out to dinner and looked forward to a good night’s sleep.
This morning I felt refreshed. We had lots of volunteers show up to help. This was going to be my last day. I took care of the llama and the bunnies. About an hour later I went to check on the llama and he was on his way to foster care. I did not get to say goodbye to him either. I’m sure he was really looking forward to the company of other llamas. All but six of the rabbits went into foster care today as well.
We were really cruising along because of all the volunteer help with the dogs. Today we decided to feed the different groups of dogs together under supervision, instead of separating them. We only had two arguments out of all the groups, so that made things a lot easier in the feeding process. We even fed the group of seven all together in their pen.
All of a sudden I came down with a fever after lunch. We already had two sick team members, so I was put on time-out for a couple of hours. I had the chills, even though it was 90 degrees and sunny. The fever broke a couple hours later and I felt fine again and went back to work.
We now had permission to walk all of the dogs outside. I was sitting working with one of the fearful “caution dogs” when one of team members yelled my name and pointed behind me. I turned around and saw two of the local volunteers walking a big husky with two slip leashes on both sides of the dog. They had walked the dog through the caution tape and he was in a full-blown panic, with the leashes on either side of him constricting him even more and making it worse.
He began whipping his head around and snapping. As I started running one of the volunteers started to grab the dog from behind so I yelled for them to get their hands off the dog. I slid to the ground by the dog and had the volunteers hand me both leashes so I could put them on one side of the dog and I told them to back away.
The dog started calming down now that he was not being constricted from both sides and then he did the funniest thing ” he jumped in my lap and leaned against me and tucked his head underneath my arm. We sat that way for about five minutes ” not the most pleasant thing when a dog weighs 80 pounds. He finally got off my lap and his breathing had slowed down.
We then went for a walk and he was fine with the leash around his neck. For the second time, I apologized to the volunteers for yelling, but explained it was for their safety. They were very grateful that I had shown up because they did not know how to handle the incident.
We finished cleaning and feeding by 8 p.m. The Rescue Rig was gone so a team of local volunteers came at 8 p.m. to act as security for all the animals. I said goodbye to all of our local volunteers. We went to dinner and then to the hotel where we were staying since the Rig was on its way to New Orleans.
I have learned that it is far too emotional to say goodbye to the animals when leaving a deployment, so I just walked out when we were done that night. I knew I would be flying home in the morning and they would be well cared for by the team members that remained and the 10-member replacement team arriving on Monday, including one of my volunteers, J.P. Kacy, on her first deployment with American Humane’s Red Star Team.
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