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Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:00

Shelter Readies Shelties for Adoptions

Riverside County Plans to Seek Animal Cruelty Charges; Volunteers Help Groom Neglected Shetland Sheep Dogs

FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2014 – Employees and volunteers washed and groomed dozens of recently impounded Shetland sheep dogs this week in preparation of getting them adopted into loving homes.

In a new development, Riverside County Animal Services Director Robert Miller announced Friday that he plans to seek animal cruelty charges against the owner of the dogs.

The dogs – 61 in total and all shelties – were part of a large-scale impound activity after a house fire in a pocket of unincorporated Riverside County this past weekend (Saturday, July 19).

The house fire displaced the owner of the dogs at that Woodcrest property on Pike Place, just off Van Buren Boulevard. The dogs' owner, Ginny Dennis, surrendered ownership of the dogs to Riverside County Animal Services. Officers transported the dogs Saturday afternoon to the Western Riverside County/City Animal Shelter in Jurupa Valley where veterinary team members examined all the dogs.

The county issued a news release about the incident on Saturday and updated the story later Saturday night. When officers first came across the dogs, they all appeared to be relatively healthy. The department's role on Saturday afternoon was not as an enforcement agency. Animal control officers were requested by another county agency to help assist with the large number of dogs.

When the dogs were further examined by Riverside County Chief Veterinarian Dr. Allan Drusys and his team members, the dogs showed signs of years of neglect. Specifically, almost every one of the dogs illustrated poor dental hygiene, Dr. Drusys said.

"We believe these dogs were never cared for in a manner consistent with proper animal husbandry," Dr. Drusys said. "All dogs require a proper level of dental hygiene, similar to us. There was a complete lack of oral hygiene provided these animals. In some cases there was more tartar than teeth in their mouths. The condition of the mouths was a direct reflection of complete lack of care the owner provided. Basically these dogs were fed – and nothing else was done for them."

Director Robert Miller said he plans to seek animal cruelty charges with the District Attorney's office using a subsection of Penal Code Section 597 related to neglect. "Essentially, our plan is to seek animal cruelty based on her lack of providing proper veterinary care for these animals," Miller said. "A pet owner must provide consistent veterinary care for their animals."

Almost every one of the shelties were tick infested, matted and had flea infestations. The dogs did not appear to have been bathed or groomed regularly, if at all.

"The animals were living in filth," Miller said.

Animal Services employees and volunteers are currently calling back the more than 100 people that expressed interest in adopting one of the shelties. The department is going to reserve the right to do a yard check, or inspection of a potential adopter's property, as a contingency to adoption.

Adoptions will likely happen sometime next week. More than 100 people inquired about adopting one of the dogs – and some of the potential adopters that visited the shelter were allowed to put a "hold" on one of the dogs. Anyone still interested in adopting can inquire via Riverside County Animal Services' main e-mail address: shelterinfo@rcdas.org (please no phone calls).

The department is concerned that some of the would-be adopters are actually friends of the dogs' former owner and are going to attempt to somehow get the dogs back to her.

"We're going to do everything to ensure these dogs are going to loving families and not end up back in the possession of someone we do not believe is capable of caring for animals in a proper manner," Miller said.

This week, a dozen or so volunteers came to the aid of the shelties. The volunteers included sheltie rescue group volunteers, sheltie breeder enthusiasts and others that wanted to ensure the dogs were well cared for after reading and watching the shelties story in media reports.

Some of the volunteers represented or are members of such nonprofit groups as: The American Shetland Sheepdog Association (ASSA), Southland Shelties Rescue Inc., Sheltie Rescue Alternative, the Shetland Sheepdog Club of Southern California and the Santiago Shetland Sheepdog Club.

Amid all the sheltie enthusiasts was Loralee Runnels, whose loyalties are deeply rooted with the California Collie Clan and the San Gabriel Valley Collie Club. All the sheltie women still welcomed her assistance, despite her allegiance with a rival herding-group breed. She and her fellow volunteers said they were disgusted at how the shelties were treated.

"This is not typical of breeders – this is an anomaly," Runnels said. "Most people love them and would never think of them to be in this condition, ever."