No arrests have been made.
About 65 dogs were taken from a property in northern Harrison County described by officials as a puppy mill. Officials said many of the animals were infested with fleas, covered with feces and had fur accumulated under their toenails.
The dogs, mainly Shih Tzus and other small breeds, were discovered after authorities received multiple complaints about a puppy mill at the location southeast of Harleton.
“The smell was bad,” said Constable Robert Wood, whose investigation of the property led him to a batch of dogs locked inside a portable building among feces, fur the animals had shed and stifling heat.
Finding no one at the property, Wood went to a neighboring residence. There, he said, he was told the owner of the dogs had moved to Odessa about two months ago. The owner was supposedly paying someone $1,000 a month to take care of the dogs.
The neighbor had a key and was able to let Wood into the building where he spotted the dogs.
After discovering even more dogs outside the building in kennels hidden by tall weeds, Wood called the Humane Society of Harrison County for assistance.
“This was way bigger than I could handle,” he said.
The humane society’s Kay Hill said she was shocked by the conditions she found.
“They were hot and suffering,” Hill said of the panting dogs, noting three air conditioning units in the building were turned on but blowing hot air. The thermostat on one of the air conditioners was set to 90 degrees. “Algae was growing on buckets of water and dogs were trying to stand in buckets to get cool.”
Other water containers were bone dry, Wood said.
Hill said many of the dogs were infested with fleas, covered with feces, and had fur accumulated under their toenails.
Some had eye ulcers.
Additionally, she said, chemicals found in the room apparently being used to treat heartworm and other conditions had not been prescribed by a veterinarian. One, she said, was intended for treating farm animals.
Many of the rescued dogs were housed at the Marshall Animal Shelter while awaiting transport Friday to the Humane Society of North Texas in Fort Worth.
One puppy died while being transported for treatment.
Six of the dogs remained Friday at the Harrison County Humane Society’s The Pet Place.
One of them is expecting a litter any day. About 60 puppies and adult dogs were taken to Fort Worth, where they await adoption.
“We’ve already adopted some out,” Hill said, adding some pregnant dogs would go to foster families until they deliver. “We’ve got a lot going to foster care.”
About 35 of the dogs were Shih Tzus, but Pekingese, Pomeranians and one Cavalier King Charles also were found.
“Every dog she had was a purebred dog,” Hill said of the absent breeder. She said it appeared the mill was producing “designer” dogs, mainly a Pekingese and Yorkshire Terrier mix.
Commercial dog and cat breeders in Texas are licensed and regulated under the so-called puppy mill bill passed by the last Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry this past June. The law requires that every person who breeds more than 11 dogs or cats at one time obtain an occupational license.
In addition to the licensing requirements, minimum standards of care have been put in place.
Wood, the constable, said making an arrest in this week’s case could come later. First, he said, the dogs had to be saved.
“We were concerned about the safety and well-being of the dogs,” Wood said. “This was strictly a humane mission.”