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Animal shelter closes dog hoarder situation

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Over 3 years, officials say they removed 78 dogs from one home, but say there were no violations

By Brad Bowman

What started as a complaint to Shelby County Animal Control of a residence housing 30 dogs covered in feces and some possibly dead, ended three years later with nearly 80 dogs removed from the home.

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Although they did not find dead or mistreated dogs on that first visit, that visit started a string of work with Randy Mason.

For three years Shelby County Animal Control arranged for the removal, adoption, spay and neutering of 78 dogs taken from Mason’s home on Dogwood Court in Simpsonville starting in June 2011.

The final visit was last week, when 20 dogs were removed after Mason died.

According to Leon Federle, Shelby County Animal Control Director, when they first met Mason there were no violations.

“The complaint was there were 30 dogs living in the home,” Federle said. “We went to the home and he [Mason] was very cooperative and very nice. He had applied for a kennel license and the dogs were outside, healthy and didn’t show any signs of abuse.”

The report states the officials took a tour of the home, found no evidence of deceased dogs and advised the owner to get shots and licenses for the approximately 18-20 dogs they observed on the property.

Officers also offered to help get the dogs spayed and neutered through local rescue groups.

Shelby County Animal Control Supervisor Bradley King said the situation then got out of hand.

“They would take in strays they found on the street and the situation, in my opinion, spiraled out of control,” said King. “We’ve worked with them over the years to remove the animals, and I think they [Mason and his wife Leanne] had the best intentions. They would find a stray dog on the street, and it would have puppies and then later those puppies were having puppies.”

King and Federle said things progressed out of control once Mason hurt his back and could no longer work.

“They worked with us and we wanted to leave him with 10 dogs at his residence, before he recently passed away,” King said. “The ones we spayed and neutered we removed from the home and they didn’t return. They wanted to keep the dogs, but once they realized they had a problem, they were fully cooperative with us.”

Working with the dogs

The report stated the situation needed to be followed up on a regular basis. A situation Tyson Chance’s – a rescue and rehabilitation shelter for dogs with special needs – founder and director Ashley Shelburne said stemmed from mental illness.

“We took in nine dogs. It wasn’t like a puppy mill situation — they were all mixed breeds. It was a severe hoarding case,” Shelburne said. “It’s a mental illness where they don’t see the neglect.”

The nine dogs Shelburne rescued had signs of neglect from living in an overpopulated situation: various skin conditions from flea infection, not being bathed, teeth issues, not house broken, problems stemming from lack of routine care and not being socialized.

“Some of these guys could be adoptable in a couple of days once they are vetted,” Shelburne said. “Some of them are eight to ten months [away] because they are so undersocialized. They run away and hide if you try to pet them. I don’t think the dogs were physically mistreated, but there was just too many for human contact. They haven’t been treated like pets and some you can tell have had limited human contact and are skittish.”

She said socializing a dog takes a process of the animal learning trust, working with high-valued treats and learning through human contact.

“When the dogs here are vetted they are dewormed, vaccinated, we do dental work and set them up for spay and neutering,” Shelburne said. “We go the full route with a rescued dog here. They are already treated like a home pet. We have a female dog that we will do blood panels on and she has mammary tumors that will have to be removed.”

The medical costs will exceed more than $150 for each dog, and the expenses are absorbed by the Shelby County Animal Shelter and Tyson’s Chance.

“You could expect as much as $200 per dog after spay and neutering and many with teeth issues,” Shelburne said. “You multiply that by ten and you are getting up there financially. Emotionally it feels good to help, but we are nothing without our supporters, volunteers and donations from the community. We couldn’t exist.”

Finding homes

As of Monday, the Shelby County Animal Shelter had 10 dogs from the residence.

“We give $30 vouchers for spay and neutering to the public,” King said. “We have three left to spay and neuter. We work with vets from the no kill mission [Shelby County No Kill Mission] and Woodstock. If we were having these spayed and neutered privately it would cost us over a thousand.”

When asked if ordinances would help curb such cases, King didn’t think so.

“In Henry County, they have ordinances for people surrendering their dogs and they charge for that,” King said. “In Shelby County, it is free. We don’t charge owners. I would rather help people that are trapped in a situation like this. Otherwise, we would get one dog and never hear from them again. I would rather take their dogs and find a new home instead of them dumping off dogs somewhere in the country and then have a stray problem.”

Henry County Animal Control Officer Dan Flinkfelt said the ordinances have helped curb the population problem at the Henry and Trimble county animal shelters.

“We don’t charge for the first two dogs an owner surrenders. They are free. The third dog from the same owner cost $35 and a litter of puppies they surrender is $75,” Flinkfelt said. “It helps with the cost of vaccinations, spay and neutering and the other costs incurred. The ordinances we put in place for charging have lowered our numbers at the shelter. Of course, we don’t charge for strays people find that they turn over to us. Last year before this ordinance was in place, we had one person turn over 20 dogs to us. If say John Smith is turning over several dogs to us he should pay and be more responsible. It’s not up to the taxpayer’s money to pay for that.”

Shelby Animal Control reported that the Mason residence has no more dogs and none of the 78 were euthanized.

For more information or to adopt one of the rescued dogs, contact Tyson’s Chance at (502) 321-7074 or the Shelby County Animal Shelter at (502) 633-0009.