LAKE PLACID Tiny dogs panted Saturday afternoon while Highlands County Humane Society volunteers covered outside dog runs with tarps to provide shade until they could move into air conditioned quarters inside Gissendanner Veterinary Clinic.
Even the heat was a godsend compared to where they recently were rescued.
The 16 dogs were saved earlier in the week from a Sebring house, along with numerous cats, after Highlands County Sheriff's Office deputies raided the house and found 45 animals near death, in inhuman conditions living on feces-covered floors, infested with fleas and mange and many left with no food or water. Some were unable to walk after being stuck in tiny cages for so long.
Dr. Eldon Gissendanner offered the Humane Society temporary space for the animals. The Humane Society facility is filled to the brim but volunteers wanted to get the dogs out of Highlands County Animal Control. Fifteen cats will be moved to the facility Wednesday from Animal Control.
Gissendanner spent Saturday afternoon doing extensive dental work on one little dog, pulling four teeth and having his dental assistant clean up the dog's mouth as much as possible.
“I hope she survives,” Gissendanner said.
He said the woman arrested for neglect, Michelle A. Brown, 59, brought the dog to him before her arrest, claiming it was a rescue dog. Gissendanner said the little dog was near death, with most of its blood gone due to heavy flea infestation. Immediately his team went to work getting rid of the fleas and getting the dog on antibiotics. It's not out of the woods, yet, though.
“I asked her how many pets she had,” Gissendanner said. “She told me she had 10 cats and 12-14-15 dogs. I asked her, 'Where did you get them from?' She said she rescued them from an unscrupulous breeder. And then she was arrested the next day. I think she knew she was going to be arrested and this dog was her mother's and wanted to save it from being confiscated.”
Humane Society President Judy Spiegel said Gissendanner was an “angel” for offering assistance and said volunteers at the Humane Society have done everything possible to save the animals' lives. Some animals had to be euthanized when they were first brought to Animal Control, however.
Spiegel said a lot of people have offered to foster the animals, and that's much appreciated, however, the most immediate needs are items such as “small bite” dog food, quality cat food, cat litter, canned dog food and volunteers to go to the clinic two or three times a day to clean cages, feed and care for the animals until they are moved. And most importantly, cash donations are needed to help offset the massive amount of veterinary services that are needed to get the animals back in good health.
She said Dolly's Foundation, out of Orlando, sent people to check out the situation and will most likely take about 90 percent of the dogs and find homes. The same foundation helped place the pit bulls that were rescued in Sebring last year.
“Our biggest problem will be placing the cats,” Spiegel said.
She said the smaller dogs, many Chihuahuas, will be saved by members of Chihuahua rescue groups.