By Nicole Minier
COLUMBIA CITY — Rehabilitation is underway for 14 dogs allegedly found in filthy conditions at a property near Churubusco two weeks ago.
The German Shepherds, ranging in age from six months to 11 years, were found in cat carriers and small cages in a horse trailer, covered with a tarp.
The dogs were taken to the Whitley County Humane Shelter, where they are receiving the treatment they need — baths, leash training, socialization and proper nutrition.
Last week, shelter employees were just over halfway through the first round of baths for the dogs, most of which were found dirty. Because the dogs’ cages were stacked on top of each other, the animals were covered in feces and urine.
“We’re still on round one of baths,” said Abbi Ogden, the shelter’s registered veterinary technician. “A couple will need a second bath.”
The dogs’ fur was very matted in some places, and some of the pups had ear infections, which made it painful to clean up around their ears. Overall, they’re much cleaner than when they first arrived.
“They’re cleaning up pretty nice and look a lot better,” Ogden said.
Another priority for the shelter is getting the dogs properly fed and watered.
When the canines were first picked up, the dogs were severely dehydrated. Many were underweight.
“They’re finally slowing down and not eating like they’re starving to death,” Ogden said. “They’re gaining weight, only a couple of them are below 40 pounds still. We’re on the right track.”
Being trapped in small cages causes kennel stress, or kennel craze, in dogs. Symptoms include tail chasing, bed chewing, lethargy, shivering or shaking and pacing.
“We have a couple that still spin, but most have settled down,” Ogden said. “Being in those small cages literally drives them insane.”
The dogs are being socialized with each other and humans.
“They love human attention and being around other dogs,” Ogden said. “This morning, it was neat, we had them in playgroups. You could tell they were happy to be with each other.”
Among the 14 dogs are several 6-month-old littermates, who have been reunited with each other.
Another important part of their rehabilitation is leash training.
“They’d never been on a leash before,” Ogden said. “They’re getting a lot better.”
The dogs haven’t shown any aggression, and Ogden thinks they will make good pets someday.
“Considering the conditions they were living in, they’re very social dogs,” Ogden said.
The dogs are not up for adoption at this time, as the case remains part of the Whitley County court system. Their owner, Ronald Drudge II, 45, was arrested March 6 by the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department. He appeared in Whitley Superior Court for his initial hearing Monday.
Drudge faces five counts of animal cruelty, Class A misdemeanors. Legal issues will need to be resolved before they can be adopted, along with the continued rehabilitation.
“We have no clue when that would be,” said Ogden. “It could be days or it could be months.”
The shelter has already received eight adoption applications for the dogs.
“If they become the shelter’s property, we will let the community know,” she said.