Pet Love Shack

25 dogs found dead at home in Barrington

They could smell the heavy, eye-stinging stench of urine

and feces from the edge of the driveway.

But nothing, not even years of working on animal cruelty cases, prepared police and staff from the Cocheco Valley Humane Society for what they discovered at 244 Beauty Hill Road on Saturday.

They found 25 dead Shar-Pei dogs and rescued 20 others in what investigators called one of the most horrific animal-cruelty cases they’ve seen.

The dogs were living in knee-deep feces and urine in two rat-infested trailer homes and a shed. Some were caged in rusty metal crates packed with feces, where they had been attacked by rats.

Bags and bags of bodies of dogs were piled in back of a shed. Some of the bodies had been there for at least a year, some were dumped only recently, said Sandy Scott-Rainey, the Cocheco Valley cruelty investigator.

The skulls and bones of dogs were littered in the trailers and shed. Massive rats were eating the dog carcasses, she said.

"I just saw hopelessness beyond hopelessness, the slime and the slop and the crates," said Lori Smith, vice president of the shelter’s board of directors.

The female property owner, who allegedly has been living with neighbors for several months, faces criminal charges, according to Barrington police. But Cocheco Valley officials in Dover say this isn’t the first time they’ve gotten complaints about this woman. In the past, they turned those complaints over to police.

If the humane society staff has its way, the woman will face serious charges for every dog they found there — dead and alive.

"We would like to see the severest penalty possible," Scott-Rainey said. "But that remains to be seen."

She was tipped off to the problem on March 22, and went to investigate the following day, she said. When she walked around the property, she heard dogs howling in pain, bodies strewn outside, the muck of feces and trash around the trailers — and fat rats staring back at her.

Scott-Rainey went to the police, who got the search warrant for Saturday’s rescue.

That morning, the thick soup of feces and urine oozed at the feet of the rescuers as they stepped inside the trailers. It hardened to a packed floor, 6 inches to knee-deep in some places, Scott-Rainey said.

And the stench sent Strafford Police Chief Scott Young and some of the others outside, gagging.

"We went in there, and I thought we were all going to die," Smith said.

Small forms darted inside the trailers. The workers thought they were puppies. But they were rats, huge sewer rats the size of house cats.

They had banged the walls and stomped their feet outside to warn the rats that they were coming in. When they shoved the trash away from the doors and forced their way inside, rats scattered across the floor. Some peered out at the people from under the refrigerator.

It was nearly pitch black inside the trailers; tattered curtains kept out the sunlight, Smith said.

"These animals haven’t seen outside in many a long time," Scott-Rainey said.

"The younger ones have probably never seen outside."

Careful not to touch the dogs, the workers used a long hook with a noose attached to loop around the animals’ necks, one at a time, and gently draw them out of the crates and trailers into the carrying crates. "We had to stand on piles of (feces) to reach the dogs," Smith said.

A man claiming to be the owner’s boyfriend took pictures of the workers as they rescued the dogs, then he followed them when they drove back to the humane society on County Farm Road, according to Scott-Rainey.

When they removed the dogs, the humane society workers took away the rats’ food supply. Some guess that the rats will then drift toward neighboring homes, in search of food.

By the end of the day, the humane society volunteers were exhausted and emotional.

"(The dogs) can’t speak. They can’t say they’re hurting. They can’t ask for help," Scott-Rainey said, near tears.

Dr. Clay Baker of the Wadleigh Falls Veterinary Clinic in Lee spent his day off examining the 20 rescued dogs, who were then put in large cages at the shelter. Most were quiet, lying on clean blankets and sleeping bags, others cheerfully approached the workers.

Most appear to be purebred Shar Peis, and a few are Shar-Pei-Chow crosses. They ranged from adult dogs to one 8-week-old black puppy, whose sibling was one of the dead.

But right now, it’s too soon to know which ones will make it and which ones will have to be destroyed, Smith said.

All have skin and eye infections, several have bite marks that could be from rats or other dogs, some may be blind from living in the blacked-out trailers, Scott-Rainey said. At least one may be pregnant.

Their medical care will range in the thousands of dollars, she said.

"We’re underfunded, understaffed, and we need all the help we can get," Smith said.

The dogs will remain in protective custody at the shelter until the case goes to court and the judge makes a decision, said Elizabeth Fourar-Laidi, the shelter’s executive director. Judges in animal-cruelty cases have the authority to expedite the cases, and to order that anyone found guilty of cruelty be prevented from ever owning another animal, she said.

"A miracle happened," Smith declared. "Those dogs got on their hands and knees and prayed for us. And we came."

The Cocheco Valley Humane Society is looking for donations to help pay for rescued dogs’ veterinary bills, which are expected to total in the thousands. For more information, call 749-5322.

They have asked Stafford County Attorney Lincoln Soldati to charge the person responsible for this, Ms. Burr with a total of 45 counts of animal cruelty. We urge you to do the same. Please send your letter to: Lincoln Soldati Stafford County Attorney Stafford County Courthouse County Farm Road Dover, NH 03820 Fax: 603-743-4997