The situation: ‘The owner’ (who we shall not name) of these dogs who is a well respected dog trainer and behaviourist was evicted from the house he lived in with his wife (who we will not name) who is ‘breeder’ by their landlord on July 21st, 2011 for not paying rent. When ‘the owner’ got kicked out, he became homeless and is currently camping in the woods near by. He left behind 37 dogs tied to trees in the woods on the adjacent property to where he use to live. These dogs have apparently been living there in that condition since September 2010 (and the city has had many complaints about them). Obviously the new tenants, who have 4 (house) dogs of their own, were not too pleased about what the previous tenant ‘left behind’ – so they took it upon themselves to offer these dogs online for free with the threat of sending them to Le BergerBlanc, claiming they were abandoned. Obviously people reacted – isn’t that what she wanted?
The plan: A rescue named Canine Feline Rescue (CFR) stepped up to help, they were supposed to have organized two transport vehicles and foster homes for all of the dogs (Sounds too good to be true? Well it was). Dee-Ann Gallant saw the post to help via her WEEAC page and showed up, along with 15-20 other volunteers who responsed. Caroline Ross and Sean Bernard who both also happen to work with Eleven Eleven, went to volunteer their time (not planning on representing Eleven Eleven Animal Rescue) to help get the dogs into the transport vehicles. Seeing as these dogs were tied and abandoned (as we were lead to believe) to trees, we wanted to help get them safe. If a rescue had everything set up for them, the least we could do was lend a hand.
The conditions of the dogs: We originally were told there was 30 dogs, once we finished our head count there was 37 total. Each dog was chained to a tree with a short chain, no trace of food, or water in sight. All the dogs were very anxious, barking, overly excited to see humans, many had run around their chains so much deep circular tracks in the dirt were left behind. Many of the dogs, were in good health but many were also skin and bones under all the fluff and fur while others had obvious health issues. Most of these dogs were very friendly, social and just dying to have human contact. It looked very well like a case of abandonment – as stated on the online article.
The twist: It turned out that the owner had not abandoned his dogs, and was actually going regularly to feed and water them (although some were still very thin). He even said that he use to keep the dogs on raw food diets as it was the best for them, but had recently switched them to a wall-mart brand when he became homeless. The SQ, MAPAQ and the SPCA had all responded to the same add that made us aware of the situation, which we did not know (or we would have stayed home and actually enjoyed our weekend). We (two volunteers who also volunteer for Eleven Eleven, two of 15-20 volunteers who were onsite to help) had no idea what we were about to mess with – an SPCA investigation! From the conditions of the dogs, and the online post, we honestly believed these dogs needed our help.
In meeting the owner of the dogs – it was obvious he did care for each of them (all having names) was doing his best to provide for them, and it was obvious he loved his dogs and parting with them was very hard for him. But it was also clear, there were far too many dogs for him to properly care for. He originally rescued these dogs from a mushing company when they wanted him to kill them, he choose to take them home and care for them.
Saturday August 6th, 2011:
Lets just say CFR fell through on promises for transport and foster homes. We waited around for 8 hours for CFR to pull through on what they promised, long enough to meet ‘the owner’ of the dogs when he came to offer food and water (they only get water periodically during the day for a brief period of time as they eat their bowls out of boredom) – this was when it first became apparent that the dogs were not abandoned and were still owned. Alarmed, the owner called the SQ – who showed up quickly. We then were told that there was an open investigation with MAPAQ on the dogs, so we needed the owner’s permission and the OK of MAPAQ to have authorization to rescue them. The owner, Mr. Lavassuer of MAPAQ spoke with Dee-Ann and agreed to allow us (the group of 15-20 volunteers) to take as many dogs as we could Saturday night, with the SQ and property tenants as witnesses to the agreement. Because the rescue who was supposed to operate this fell through – we realized they are no one we can rely on nor do we want to entrust dogs in their care. So Dee-Ann, Caroline and Sean (the volunteers of Eleven Eleven), and Sophie’s Dog Adoption along with other individuals there to help transport all squeezed dogs into their houses for the night to get them safe and sound – between us 7-10 dogs were rescued in front of the police , with the authorization of the owner and MAPAQ. Two dogs were surrendered to Sean Bernard, one in the foster care of Eleven Eleven the other in Sophies Dog Adoption, and 5 were surrendered to Dee-Ann Gallant.
The owner also has the names, addresses, and contact information of all dogs taken off the property on Saturday.
As we could only squeeze so little dogs into safety, we left with the agreement/consent of the owner that we would return the following day for more dogs – as the volunteers also needed time to crash-course coordinate an entire rescue.
Sunday August 7th, 2011:
A volunteer with Sophie had camped out over night with the owner and dogs, Dee-Ann left voice mails with MAPAQ to confirm a second day of rescue but had not heard back. The owner left to take a shower at a volunteers place, and was hesitant about letting the dogs go. Obviously stressed about the conditions of the dogs, not knowing there was a rescue organized for them (or that the SPCA was involved) the volunteers on sight choose to go forward with the rescue on the agreements of the day before (yes it was a gray zone – that was a mistake).
Most of the volunteers for the day arrived around 2pm. One volunteer Sean Bernard who works with Eleven Eleven and Sophie’s arrived on sight at 5pm and Caroline at 7pm, approximately 10-17 dogs already in other cars with other volunteers Caroline put 3 dogs in her car to transport to other rescues already arranged. We had volunteer drivers and rescues as far as London, Ontario prepared to receive these dogs at all hours of the night, and drivers prepared to do over night round trips. At 7:30pm SQ officers from the day before arrived to check in on the rescue operation, walked around, spoke to a few people and continued on their way as we were following the agreements of the day before which they were present for. We started on our way, many dogs were loaded in cars each with a place to call home and comfy bed to sleep in (for the first time in their lives) that night.
Before we made it out of the city, we were pulled over by a second set of police officers – who had a different opinion on what we were doing. Unfortunately – the owner changed his mind about us rescuing more dogs today and no longer wanted our help in finding them places – he wanted them back, and with him Mr. Lavassuer of MAPAQ did as well. The police told us we had to go back, and chain the dogs back to their trees or we could face criminal charges. Sohpie spoke to the local SPCA who had not picked up their phones all weekend, they wanted us to take the dogs back as they had an investigation on them. Sean and Caroline took their dogs back, and chained each dog back to their trees as requested. So did the other volunteers who also had dogs.
What went wrong:
1. These dogs have been there far to long, the city has had complaints about them far before the owner was even evicted.
2. The original rescue who sent us ‘volunteers’ to help rescue the dogs – should have looked into what they were sending us out for by making a simple call to the SPCA to start with. Before even attempting to coordinate a rescue of them.
3. When we were in contact with the owner of the dogs, the SQ and MAPAQ; they could have easily told us from the start that a rescue is already planned of them – we would have dropped it, gone home, and actually enjoyed our weekend.
4. It would have really helped if HSI (Humane Society International) and the SPCA checked their voice mails on weekends – we were trying to get in contact with them!
Although ‘Dognapping in Lachute; Huskies not so abandoned after all‘ (Later changed to ‘Dogs Taken and Returned in Lachute’) is a much more entertaining title for a CTV news article than ‘Quebec government fails to be pro-active about animal welfare… again’ (Maybe that title has already been overused)– news reporters looking for attention rather than useful or even accurate reporting are missing the point. The point is these dogs have been there for ages, there has been many complaints before the owner even became homeless. Once again Quebec has managed to completely ignore an obvious problem until it is an ‘issue’ that they can no longer turn their back on. Once again we are acting re-actively (like The Berger Blanc situation) instead of creating proactive solutions – to prevent this from happening in the first place. Think we wanted to spend our weekend this way? What world do we live in, when the right thing to do last night according to our laws was go back and chain these dogs to their trees with no food, water, or dry land to sleep on (it was all puddles from the rain)? What province do we live in when police escort us back to chaining the dogs, instead of being along side helping us take them off chains? What province do we live in when the owners of the dogs are threatening to charge us – but nothing is being done (as far as we know) to charge him?
Was it really our fault that the owner changed his mind on us? Or that we were not told by the SQ and MAPAQ a rescue was already organized for them? Or for going to help lend a hand at getting these apparently abandoned animals to safety? Or that we responded to an add posted all across the internet by the current tenant of the property?
Thanks to all the bad press, even more animals will now suffer. Our adoptions will now be down, donations will be down – crucial for a private rescue with no government subsidization, ultimately seriously limiting us being able to accept any new animals into the rescue if our foster homes remain full and there is no funding. Was it really worth it, for a ill-informed catchy article??