February 23, 2019

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All 15 dogs rescued from Winnipeg house find new homes

A dark tale has ended in wagging tails for 15 dogs found last month abandoned in horrific conditions inside a house on Home Street.

Hope, a one-year-old Labrador-bloodhound cross female, was the last of the five young adult dogs to be adopted through the City of Winnipeg's Animal Services Agency, due to treatment for a skin condition. The dog went home Wednesday with a new family, Shaun and Rachelle Blue, their eight-year-old son, Kayden, and cat, Gargamel.

"When we went to see Hope, as soon as we approached the kennel, she just sat there. All the other dogs were barking, but she was just sitting there and looking at us like, 'Please.' You could just see and feel the hurt," said Rachelle Blue. The family took Hope for an overnight stay Feb. 3-4, before it had to go back to the veterinarian to be spayed.

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A dark tale has ended in wagging tails for 15 dogs found last month abandoned in horrific conditions inside a house on Home Street.

Hope, a one-year-old Labrador-bloodhound cross female, was the last of the five young adult dogs to be adopted through the City of Winnipeg's Animal Services Agency, due to treatment for a skin condition. The dog went home Wednesday with a new family, Shaun and Rachelle Blue, their eight-year-old son, Kayden, and cat, Gargamel.

Hope went home Wednesday with a new family, Rachelle  and Shaun Blue, their eight-year-old son, Kayden. (Shannon VanRaes photos / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hope went home Wednesday with a new family, Rachelle and Shaun Blue, their eight-year-old son, Kayden. (Shannon VanRaes photos / Winnipeg Free Press)

"When we went to see Hope, as soon as we approached the kennel, she just sat there. All the other dogs were barking, but she was just sitting there and looking at us like, 'Please.' You could just see and feel the hurt," said Rachelle Blue. The family took Hope for an overnight stay Feb. 3-4, before it had to go back to the veterinarian to be spayed.

"She's just so gentle and so caring. I just felt an instant connection. I told my husband right away when we brought her home, 'She's staying.' We got her a big comfy bed, and I might have gone overboard and painted her name on her dish, but she's coming home to a lavish lifestyle."

Veterinary staff examine Hope after she was seized in January from a house on Home Street. (Winnipeg Police Service photo)

Veterinary staff examine Hope after she was seized in January from a house on Home Street. (Winnipeg Police Service photo)

Hope became the public face of the incident at the Jan. 14 news conference when the Winnipeg Police Service announced five animal cruelty charges against 35-year-old Crystal Marie Molloy. (A photo released by the city featured the sad-faced dog hunched over on an examination table.)

Now, there are tail wags all around. Hope and the other adult dogs — Rosco, Faith, Axel and Louis — are all part of new adopted families.

Rachelle said she heard about Hope from her brother, Jim Ross, who last week adopted a dog rescued from the Home Street house. Ross, his wife, Sarah, their three children and other two dogs brought into their home Rosco, a one-year-old mastiff-bloodhound cross.

"He's just a big cuddly teddy bear. He just craves love. When he wants another pat, he'll just tap you with his paw. He's just a gentle giant with a big wrinkly face like a cinnamon bun," Ross said of the 32-kilogram Rosco, who is expected to put on a few more pounds.

"He's got a big head, but his body hasn't really grown because of being malnourished. His spine is still showing a bit. But he's not food-aggressive. He eats with the other two dogs. You'd figure there'd be growling; he fought for his life, right? But no. If someone bumps into him, he just moves over."

The Blues first took Hope for an overnight stay.

The Blues first took Hope for an overnight stay.

The two litters of five puppies each were also quickly adopted through the Winnipeg Humane Society last month.

"The adopters understand that socialization is very important because these puppies were in a hoarding situation. We offer classes and we ask our adopters to participate in these classes just to make sure, moving forward, they don't develop any concerning behaviour," said chief executive officer Javier Schwersensky.

The dogs were rescued Jan. 4, after two Winnipeg police officers in the area of 716 Home St. for an unrelated call witnessed malnourished dogs in "extreme distress" frantically scratching at the windows. Police said there was a "pungent, foul smell" coming from the house.

Inside, feces and urine were encrusted on the furniture and walls, garbage and refuse was strewn over every surface of the home, the air was thick. The five young adult dogs and 10 puppies were sick, dehydrated and starving.

Hope takes her first steps towards her forever home.

Hope takes her first steps towards her forever home.

Leland Gordon, CEO of the Animal Services Agency, said the dogs were trying to survive by eating drywall and furniture stuffing. They had ear infections, skin conditions and overgrown nails.

"The most horrific thing about this whole incident was the living conditions that those animals were being forced to live in: how absolutely disgusting it was in there," said Gordon.

"The odour of ammonia (from urine) was so awful that the team that went in there had to wear respirators. Feces everywhere, can't breathe in there. There's no access to the outdoors. No food, no water... There's no way humans could live in that home, and so just imagine if you are a dog and having to stay there for days or weeks or months. Nobody really knows how long they were in there."

Police said they believe the dogs would have died if officers hadn't found them by chance. Three dead puppies were later found in a plastic bin in the garage by a cleaning crew.

"She's just so gentle and so caring. I just felt an instant connection. I told my husband right away when we brought her home, 'She's staying'," Rachelle Blue said.

"She's just so gentle and so caring. I just felt an instant connection. I told my husband right away when we brought her home, 'She's staying'," Rachelle Blue said.

Prior to adoption, Gordon said members of his team spent weeks getting the adult dogs the medical care and socializing them, in addition to providing grooming, a proper diet and a clean, safe place to sleep.

"They're all having very positive outcomes, and they'll never have to worry about being locked up in a disgusting home ever again. Our team has done their due diligence making sure we found good homes for these pets," he said.

Winnipeg animal rescue 'a teaching moment'

Animal Services Officer 148 with Hope last month after being rescued. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)</p>

Animal Services Officer 148 with Hope last month after being rescued. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

The rescue is a learning opportunity for the public in animal care issues, says the head of the city's Animal Services Agency.

"If anybody ever suspects animal cruelty or neglect, they need to report it to the province (through the Winnipeg Humane Society)," Leland Gordon said Thursday, noting the province is responsible for all animal cruelty investigations under its Animal Care Act.

"If somebody knew about what was going on in that (Home Street) home, it should have been reported."

Police officers also serve as animal protection officers, which is how Winnipeg police became involved in the rescue. Officers were in the area on an unrelated call and happened to park their vehicle in front of house.

One of the 10 puppies found by officers. (Winnipeg Police Service)

One of the 10 puppies found by officers. (Winnipeg Police Service)

When they smelled a putrid odour coming from the house and saw the panicked dogs through its window, the officers contacted Animal Services Agency and WHS animal protection officers.

"I hope that people see this as a teaching moment. If people are not prepared to care for animals — dogs, cats, companion animals — for their entire lives, and get those animals proper food, water, shelter and proper regular veterinary care, or if people are struggling or just don't have extra finances, then don't get a pet," Gordon said.

"People can very easily get overwhelmed, and then you have scenarios like this where dogs are just left fending on their own."

The agency chief executive officer said the case should also serve as a reminder to landlords to check their properties often.

The Ross family, with their new family member, Rosco, centre, who was adopted from Animal Services last week after surviving a dog hoarding situation on Home Street. From left: Sarah; dog Luke; son Lee; dog Rosco; Jim; son Cody, dog Hunter; animal services staff member; daughter Emily.

The Ross family, with their new family member, Rosco, centre, who was adopted from Animal Services last week after surviving a dog hoarding situation on Home Street. From left: Sarah; dog Luke; son Lee; dog Rosco; Jim; son Cody, dog Hunter; animal services staff member; daughter Emily.

"This was a rented home. The conditions in there took a long time to create," he said. "If a landlord sees conditions like that and seeing animals living in horrific conditions like that, then the landlord should report it to the province."

'If anybody ever suspects animal cruelty or neglect, they need to report it to the province (through the Winnipeg Humane Society)'
— Leland Gordon

Animal services enforces the City of Winnipeg's responsible pet ownership bylaw, which includes strays, animal attacks, barking complaints, as well as the types and numbers of pets allowed in homes in the city.

"I can tell people take animal care and cruelty issues very seriously in Manitoba. The community does, based on how many people were outraged with this incident," Gordon said.

Crystal Marie Molloy, who will appear in court Feb. 19, is facing three charges are under the provincial Animal Care Act and two under the Criminal Code.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Emily Ross, 11, snuggles with Rosco on the couch while Luke naps on the other end of the couch. Rosco was adopted by the Ross family from animal services after he was rescued Jan. 4 from a dog hoarding situation on Home Street.

Emily Ross, 11, snuggles with Rosco on the couch while Luke naps on the other end of the couch. Rosco was adopted by the Ross family from animal services after he was rescued Jan. 4 from a dog hoarding situation on Home Street.

Ashley Prest

Ashley Prest
Reporter

Ashley works the general assignment beat.

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