FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A group of around 100 shelter dogs arrived in Fort Wayne Saturday night from Texas, but how those dogs got here – in two box trucks, in a 30-plus hour trip… has a lot of people angry.
The Rescue the Animals (RTA) shelter in Abilene, Texas needed to free up space to host animals affected by Hurricane Harvey. The shelter transported the dogs they had before the storm to Fort Wayne in coordination with animal rescue and adoption organization G.R.R.O.W.L.
Many of the volunteers were displeased with the condition of the dogs when they arrived. Veterinary Technician Melissa Saylor is one of the volunteers who was not happy with how the dogs were transported or the condition the dogs were in when they arrived.
“I’m real angry,” she told NewsChannel 15. “I’m real upset. Six of the dogs were taken away immediately by the [Allen County] sheriff’s department to get emergency medical attention, meaning their lives were in imminent danger.”
One volunteer told NewsChannel 15 he was the first to open the truck when it arrived. A temperature gun registered the box truck with an internal temperature around 120 degrees.
Volunteers said several dogs were vomiting or lost consciousness – likely suffering from heat stroke.
Christi Pelz, a leader at G.R.R.O.W.L., calls the group of volunteers a mob.
“They weren’t volunteers,” she said. “They’re not with any organization. They’re a mob of people who posted our place on Facebook and then attacked us at a drop site. They call themselves volunteers but what organization do they volunteer for?”
Pelz said the vehicle and its conditions were approved by an animal control officer in Texas and that a veterinarian cleared all the animals for travel, but now she has bigger concerns. She says the group of volunteers stole some of the dogs.
“Someone stole a dog from our truck, took it home with them without its medication and then refused to give it to the vet, refused to tell us where the dog was and it died in their care because they stole it without its medication and there are other dogs that they stole that need medication,” she said. “We desperately need to get those dogs back before they meet the same fate.”
She also said people are wrongly accusing her of illegally transporting dogs without proper certification.
“All of our dogs have health certificates,” she said. “Every single dog, but the mob of angry people spread the rabies certifications and the tags and the health certificates all over the back of that truck. We had to pick them up off of the ground off of the back of the truck because they were spread everywhere and completely scattered.”
They’re now organizing the certificates and sending them to where they belong. All the dogs from the transport are being taken to shelters in the region, including Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.
An Allen County Sheriffs Office Deputy took six of the dogs to Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control because they were in such poor condition. Director Amy-Jo Sites says while it’s not against the law to transport dogs in box trucks, its highly advised to use vehicles made specifically for animal transportation.
“They’re going to want to make sure they’re temperature controlled,” she explained. “That’s the number one rule of transporting animals. Just like we [as people] wouldn’t want to be transported in an un-air-conditioned or non-temperature-controlled vehicle. Animals are the same. They need to make sure there’s proper ventilation and there’s a temperature, 65 to 85 degrees, ambient temperatures between, that a vehicle needs to be when you are moving animals anywhere.”
Despite the conditions, volunteers are glad they got to help.
“These dogs are happy,” said volunteer Joshua Braden once the group started getting the dogs out of their cages. “They’re getting loving, getting care and getting done what they needed to be done.”
The Allen County Sheriff’s Department is conducting an investigation on the transport.
Rescue the Animals has stopped working with G.R.R.O.W.L. until further investigation.
“We’ve never had an incident concerning the health of animals,” said President Paul Washburn. “So this concerns us tremendously because we’re very thorough about the people we work with. We’re very thorough about the procedures they use to transport the animals.”