By ANGYE MORRISON
Local residents with Fixing the Boro and Southern Edge K9 joined forces with Guardians of Rescue to remove animals from two separate residences in North Florida in the past couple of months.
On February 4, 70 dogs were rescued from a home in Lake Butler, Florida. Sarah Roehm, with Fixing the Boro, and Michael Duncan and a team from Southern Edge K9 stood alongside Guardians of Rescue as officers from the Union County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on the home. The resident had been serving as a foster for Dragon Paws Rescue, which operates in Georgia, Florida and Virginia. About half of the dogs found on property were Dragon Paws rescues, and it is unclear whether the rest were from shelters or the local community. To date, no charges have been filed, as the investigation is ongoing.
Roehm says that about 50 of the dogs were inside a single-wide mobile home on the property, with the rest outside. The scene was horrific, she said.
“Trash piled up everywhere, feces inches deep in some places in the yard. You had human trash that was stacked, as well as soiled dog blankets and bags full of animal feces. And that was just the outside area,” she said. “Inside you could hardly breathe. The smell of ammonia was overwhelming.”
Roehm said inside the home there were crates stacked, two and three high, some with more than one dog in them. The floors and the crate trays were covered with urine and dog feces, and the dogs had multiple medical issues, including eye and respiratory issues.
Fixing the Boro brought home 10 of the dogs, which have been spayed or neutered and fully vetted, including heartworm testing and/or treatment, and flea and tick prevention. The dogs have been in foster care, and have been learning how to properly live in a crate, and are working on leash training and socialization. They are all right here in Statesboro, and are ready to find their forever homes.
The second case, on March 3, was in Suwannee County, Florida. Southern Edge K9’s Duncan, Savannah Folwell, Darien Sanders and Connor Lewis again partnered with Guardians and the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office to rescue dozens of dogs in a hoarding case. A father and daughter are facing 118 counts of felony animal cruelty and are in custody.
Upon serving the search and seizure warrant, deputies found 118 dogs on the property. Most were in need of veterinary care and were suffering from neglect. The home was uninhabitable, Duncan said.
“There was no front door, there was a sheet covering the door. There were some dogs inside the house when we arrived,” he said. “I would compare the situation to a hog slew. The feces looked like mud that was a foot and a half to two feet deep.”
Duncan said there were around 115 dogs inside one pen, and there was evidence the father would sometimes sleep in the pen with the dogs. Investigators believe the daughter would pick up strays and bring them home. As none of the animals were spayed or neutered, there had also been multiple litters.
A lot of the dogs showed aggression, Duncan said, based on fear. That’s where the benefit of having Southern Edge K9 on hand is invaluable to both the rescue and law enforcement personnel. SE personnel work to make sure the environment is safe.
“In these cases, we all work together extracting these dogs out of this environment, and then we move them to a secondary location, where they are easier to manage, to evaluate each dog for aggression or behavioral issues,” he said.
Two of the dogs from this case are with SE currently, going through behavioral modification.
“One was particularly aggressive, and almost took an officer’s face off in Florida. And now she’s engaging with the public. Through socialization and environmental training, we’ve gotten her to where she is interacting with the public and doing great. She’s wagging her tail, she’s happy with life. She’s trusting people and building her confidence,” he said.
Once their training is complete, both dogs will be available for adoption. The remaining dogs were taken by other rescues.
Fixing the Boro has worked with Guardians of Rescue about seven times. Guardians is not a rescue, but does partner with local rescues in the areas where they help with cases.
“They’re not law enforcement themselves, but they assist law enforcement,” Roehm said. “They’re not a rescue, but they guard rescues.”
The partnership with Southern Edge K9 is more recent, she added.
“They have provided, really, a front that we’ve never brought in with us. Usually it’s lot of rescue crews that are there. We’re experienced in handling dogs, but it changes the whole dynamic when you have professional trainers there to help evaluate and assess each pet before they even leave the property,” she said.
Both Duncan and Roehm say they will continue the partnerships, and will continue to do what they can to save as many animals as they can.
“We feel very compelled to help with these types of cases in our area,” Roehm said. “We’ll keep going as long as they keep asking us to be a part of it.”
For more information on Guardians of Rescue, go online at www.guardiansofrescue.org. You can find Fixing the Boro and Southern Edge K9 on Facebook.