- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

MUNSTER, Ind. (AP) - Problems at Gary Animal Control last summer led to an international domino effect of rehabilitation and new homes for more than two dozen dogs, officials said.

Animal Rescue Corps, a Washington, D.C.-based group that works with law enforcement to save animals from dog-fighting rings and puppy mills throughout North America, rescued 25 dogs from a dog-fighting ring in Mississippi last month.

Five of those dogs - four pit bull terriers and a Rottweiler - were transferred this week to the Humane Society Calumet Area in Munster. They’re starting rehabilitation with trainer Kris Montgomery aimed at placing them in adoptive homes.

One of the rescued dog, Hoops, has scars on his head, face and hind quarters. He’s terrified of other dogs, Bacino told The Times (https://bit.ly/1jD6OOE ).

All of the dogs tested positive for heartworm.

“The pit bull has gotten such a terrible, terrible reputation,” said Jenny Bacino, assistant director at the Munster facility. “People fear them and don’t understand all of their wonderful traits. It’s a true disservice to the breed.”

The local shelter welcomed the dogs, but the addition pushed the already overcrowded facility, which is housing animals in hallways, offices and classrooms, beyond its limits.

“We already have around 370 animals here,” volunteer coordinator Jessica Petalas said. “We have dogs everywhere that were only supposed to be in the main kennel, but the alternative is them being on the street.”

Animal Rescue Corps sweetened the deal, saying it would take about 20 dogs to a shelter in Nova Scotia, Canada, in exchange for rehabbing the dogs rescued from a life of fighting.

“I said ‘We’re in desperate need,’ and they said, ‘So are we,’” ARC founder and President Scotlund Haisley said.

Those dogs began their trip Thursday morning, when Haisley arrived with a van.

All of the dogs leaving for Nova Scotia already had adoption agreements awaiting them in Canada, Bacino said.

A partnership between Animal Rescue Corps and Humane Society Calumet Area was born eight months ago, when ARC provided an assessment of Gary Animal Control after complaints surfaced about conditions and practices there last summer.

Haisley said Bissell Pet Foundation, a charity arm of the vacuum cleaner company, asked his group to assess Gary Animal Control and provide recommendations.

“It was very clear that it was, quite simply, a disaster,” Haisley said. “The shelter was non-functional. They were putting to death a large number of their animals. For the most part, if you wound up in the Gary pound, you were in trouble.”

Haisley said as part of the assessment, he looked at other area rescues and determined Humane Society Calumet Area could provide the best solution.

The assessment led to a contract orchestrated by Animal Rescue Corps between the city of Gary and Humane Society Calumet Area. The agreement allows the Humane Society to handle animal intake for Gary at a rate of $50 per animal per month. Fees are waived for feral cats.

Animal Rescue Corps also partnered with Humane Society Calumet Area as part of the agreement.

Haisley said the behavior program at Humane Society Calumet Area administered by Montgomery “is extraordinary.”

“These are dogs that need significant rehabilitation before placement,” he said. “We work throughout North America and this was the top pick for getting these (dog-fighting) dogs what they need.”

Bacino said Haisley is “like the Bono of the animal rescue world.”

Haisley said his work is “immediately rewarding.”

“I see the worst humanity has to offer, but I see the best humanity has to offer with these good folks here giving their time,” he said. “When we’re on any type of cruelty case, to reach into a cage and look into the eyes of an animal that has only known pain and suffering their entire life and make a promise they’ll never have to go through that again is what powers me.

“When I’m driving 20 hours to transport these dogs and I’m tired and want to stretch my back and stop, that promise keeps me going.”


Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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