There’s nothing unusual about an animal shelter employing fund-raising events and adoption fairs to help with the costs of caring for stray and surrendered animals. But when the Orange County Animal Services received nearly 60 dogs — three of them pregnant — rescued from a puppy mill in Chapel Hill, it knew it was about to be tested. That number soon grew to 80 when the puppies were born. The shelter would need a more aggressive method for replenishing its greatly depleted funds.
That method has come in the form of a GoFundMe page created by MicroMass Communications, a marketing agency based in Cary.
“It’s the first time we’ve done a GoFundMe campaign,” said Tenille Fox, communications specialist with Orange County Animal Services. “We partner with other places in the community for smaller events. But this is the first time someone has started a campaign for us online. They (MicroMass) offered the skills, software and the readiness to start this campaign, which is really nice.
“There are almost 80 dogs from this recovery,” Fox said. “Some are Old English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, some Mastiffs and some Cane Corso. We don’t know if, say, the Mastiffs are full-blood, but we know they are at least Mastiff mixed. And they are getting big. They are already the size of regular large dogs and they’re only puppies.”
The cost of feeding such a large group of dogs — big and small — is daunting. But Fox said the puppy deliveries greatly added to the expense.
“Two of them were c-sections,” she said. “They were breeds where natural birth is complicated. The deliveries had to be performed offsite at a specialty veterinary hospital. That was many thousands of dollars.”
The shelter temporarily hired an extra person to help with the caring for the animals from the seizure. The additional staff was another unexpected hit to the shelter’s funds.
Fox said the size of the animal recoveries, which are usually carried out with the assistance of law enforcement officers, are not always indicative of costs. “The recovery we had before this particular one was 30 dogs from a fighting ring,” she said. “So, compared with those dogs, the 60 dogs from this puppy mill were in better shape.”
Fox added she didn’t know if the 60 dogs recovered in the October 2019 seizure was the largest ever in Orange County, but “In the three years I have been here, it is the largest I have ever seen.”
Orange County Deputies arrested and charged Taylor Doar and his mother, Cynthia Riggan, with felony cruelty to animals.
“Many of the dogs had medical conditions, and some of them serious. The living conditions were terrible. The dogs were kept in very small, confined spaces, literally in their own feces and urine,” she said. “Many of the medical conditions we often see when overbreeding is involved.”
It’s part of what frustrates Fox and many others who devote their time to animal shelters.
“With puppy mills, the customer often doesn’t see the deplorable conditions or the environment of the parent dogs,” Fox said. “They don’t see the skin and eye infections. They just see the cute puppies that are being presented.”
Fox stressed that if a person is going to pay a breeder for a pet, they should do as much research as possible into where the puppy is coming from. She said a person should make sure the breeder is compliant with recommendations and regulations.
“A person should always want to know where their dog is coming from,” she added.
Fox said each of the rescued dogs will eventually be available for adoption. Because of the legal process that comes into play when dogs are seized, none of them can be fostered.
“We’re not sure how much longer it will be before they are adoptable,” Fox said. “It seems we’re nearing the end of this long journey. The seizure day was Oct. 11. We have recently gained custody of the dogs through the civil process. The criminal process is now underway. We’re holding the dogs to comply with due process.
“We’ve had huge response from the community and an outpouring of people who have offered to adopt or foster these dogs,” she said. “It’s heartwarming to know the community is supportive and devoted to the well-being of these animals. But until we complete the legal part of this, we have to keep them onsite.
“We’re working on coming up with an adoption process that is fair,” Fox continued. “We’ve had hundreds of inquiries about these dogs. We want to make sure we’re doing what’s best for the dogs, and what’s fair for the community. It’s created a challenge, but we’ll take it.
“We feel confident each of these dogs will be adopted. The GoFundMe campaign will go a long way to replenish our funds, and continue to help these animals through the time when they’re able to be adopted. Some people offer food, money, blankets. All of that is great. MicroMass offering its time and talent was unbelievable.”
Eventually, when all of the dogs from this seizure have been placed in loving homes, Fox hopes the Orange County community remembers the work of its Animal Services.
“It can be a bit tough to see such a rush to adopt these bred dogs that have been seized when we also have so many gorgeous and sweet dogs that are mixed-breed strays or surrenders,” Fox said. “This situation give us a lot of attention for the work we do for the good of all animals. This lets people know we’re here.
“Animal shelters are only as good as the community surrounding them. We have a wonderful community. Sometimes, though, it’s a struggle to get our message out there to the community. Not just with regard to needing funds or adoptions. But also with responsibilities. Like spaying and neutering cats. That’s a big issue.”