The State of Massachusetts Animal Response Team (SMART) recently extended its efforts on behalf of animals some 1,500 miles southwest of Massachusetts. Seven SMART volunteers answered a call to help 175 small-breed dogs who were rescued from a puppy mill in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Local authorities began investigating the substandard commercial breeding facility more than two years ago. Last November, the Garland County Sheriff’s Department issued a search warrant for the ironically named Happy Times Kennel and recruited the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to help collect more evidence and care for the dogs. The Massachusetts-based International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) assisted the ASPCA with on-site forensic work and the removal and sheltering of the dogs. SMART provided a number of volunteers to the various IFAW teams.
The dogs — mainly small breeds such as Chihuahuas, West Highland white terriers, Boston terriers, and dachshunds — were found living in deplorable conditions at the kennel. Many of the pregnant dogs and newborn puppies showed signs of neglect, including malnourishment, severe skin problems, and flea infestation. Investigators also discovered dead dogs on the property.
All the animals were seized under the search warrant, and the kennel owner was arrested on three felony counts of cruelty to animals.
Manny Maciel, a SMART volunteer and board member, assisted the ASPCA with the initial seizure. SMART volunteers Scott Facey, Jim Helems, Emilio Knox, Cheryl Noroian, Sharon O’Keefe, and Diane Treadwell helped IFAW get the seized dogs settled at a temporary shelter and then two months later assisted with transporting the dogs to various ASPCA partners in the Northeast for adoption into their forever homes.
SMART is part of IFAW’s Emergency Response Network (ERN), a nationwide collaboration of various animal response teams, who help to provide support and staffing for larger scale deployments. “SMART is a valued member of our ERN. I know when I send out a request for response support that the list of potential volunteers I receive from SMART are skilled and prepared to support our mission. IFAW is proud to work with SMART to help animals in crisis here in Massachusetts and around the country,” says Shannon Walajtys, IFAW disaster response manager.
This ongoing collaboration not only benefits countless animals in need but also helps IFAW with additional deployment support and the local organizations get invaluable hands-on experience with different kinds of animal rescues.
Says David Schwarz, president of the SMART board of directors: “We get invaluable experience in the day-to-day setup, management, and demobilization of an emergency shelter, as well as in situations not commonly encountered in Massachusetts. We also benefit from seeing how different organizations run animal-response efforts and from meeting incredible, dedicated people from all over the U.S.”
This type of arrangement is a win-win for all involved and is a great opportunity to build experience. If you think you’d like to join one of these deployments in the future, please be sure to complete the ICS 100 and NIMS 700 training programs as both are required for any deployment, inside or outside of the state of Massachusetts.