UPDATE - The Animal Hospital of Punxsutawney is still taking contributions to help defray the cost ofcaring for these sick dogs. Any additional money will go into a fund to help pay for the care of other needy animals. Veterinarian Emily Rapp said the funds will benefit stray animals and owners who cannot afford expensive surgery or complex treatments for their pets. Contributions may be sent to:
Animal Hospital of Punxsutawney
2421 Walston Rd.
Police in Jefferson County have issued an arrest warrant for an Ohio woman charged with animal cruelty for abandoning 14 Pomeranians and three other small dogs in the woods in May.
Tiffany Eggleston, 37, of Columbus, Ohio, is wanted for dumping the dogs - all suffering from dental disease, eye infections and fecal encrusted fur - in the predator-filled forest after she was reportedly evicted from her trailer near Punxsutawney.
"She is on the run, we cannot locate her," said State Police Trooper Michael Britton of Eggleston, who once showed and bred AKC-registered Pomeranians.
These tiny dogs wandered around in the predator-filled woods until some Good Samaritan neighbors rounded them up and began taking them to a local veterinarian. One dog, a blind Pomeranian, was roaming the woods for three days.
Where did they take the little survivors? Not to an animal shelter. There isn't one anywhere in the county whose most famous resident is an animal. That would be the world's best known groundhog, Phil. who lives in luxury in the Punxsutawney library. The Good Samaritans took the dogs to a Super Samaritan, local veterinarian Emily Rapp.
"They just kept coming," said Rapp, I couldn't turn them away." She tried to call the county dog warden, Jamie Carlson, for help but he didn't answer his phone on Friday afternoon and Rapp said he told her he didn't work weekends.
Their teeth were so rotten many had to be pulled. She found heart conditions and eye infections that will leave permanent scars.
She said she had never seen anything of this magnitude.
And Rapp and her staff performed vet care for the dogs but then they became the de facto shelter and began the process of finding these very badly dogs new, loving homes.
And they did find homes.
The bill? Rapp has no idea. Thousands in spay/neuter surgeries alone, she said. Donations came in and volunteers helped.
But why in 2012 is a veterinarian playing animal rescue and shelter for an entire county? In fact, Rapp said there is no animal control facility in any of the surrounding counties. The Pennsylvania SPCA closed its Clarion County shelter in 2008.
Why do state troopers have to investigate animal cruelty? Because there are no humane officers in Jefferson County.
This sad incident underscores three critical statewide issues that cry out for statewide solutions:
the lack of shelters that will take in stray dogs
the shortage of humane police officers
the ban on overtime for dog wardens
(Didn't the chihuahua rescue last month in the northeast that occurred late on a Friday night demonstrate that animal welfare is not a 9-5 enterprise?)
"There is no protocol," said Rapp. "And there is a huge void."