Here's a hair-raising tale with, at least, a happy ending, though it started badly enough. When irresponsible people are ready to discard their dogs, there's no reason to suppose they'll be more responsible in the manner by which they do it.
Alice Via of Lakeside, California, apparently to feed her dog-hoarding disorder, advertised herself as a rescue shelter for boxers and chihuahuas, providing an easy drop-off for dogs whose lives had probably already been pretty sad.
Eventually she had 63 dogs which spent twenty-three hours a day in small filthy crates stacked two-high throughout her tiny 750 square foot home, as shown in the photograph down at the bottom of this page.
They were dehydrated, having been deprived of water so they wouldn't pee quite so much in their boxes. So too they were underfed. Feces and vomit matted their bald-patchy fur.
They were suffering from a variety of diseases and had injuries from attempting to escape. A typical boxer had six ticks just in one ear alone.
The chihuahua shown in three pictures here at the right is not a hairless xolo, though it is completely bald -- from mange. After antibiotic injections and antibacterial baths, the hair will grow back, and "they will become happy little chihuahuas," said animal control officer Lieutenant Dan Desouza.
Early in March 2010, Via, age 65, was arrested for felony animal abuse and carted away in handcuffs. The dogs were taken to a real shelter, in San Diego, with sufficient news coverage that people began signing up to adopt the very next day, though due to their sundry illnesses it would be a little while before the dogs were healthy enough to adopt out.
In the meantime the dogs were kenneled with plenty of room to move about, lapped up tons of water, and were provided with soft beds, pillows, and pampering.
The animal rescue community takes no responsibility for these situations gone wrong, but frankly, that community "re-homes" dogs for $200 to $400 per animal and a lot of what passes for rescue are enormous scams conducted by people deluding themselves they do good.
That's precisely how Via was able to fit in tidily with the rescue community. She was so highly regarded that other "rescuers" even permitted her to take dogs from shelters which never checked the conditions in her illegal "shelter." After her arrest, the rescue community said they were surprised because she was well thought of in the community. No changes in policies and methods was broached.
Like other demented "rescue" operators, Via had a very real fondness for dogs and probably never intended to become such a radical abuser. But between the untaxed profit motive, and the very real mental illness of hoarding animals, she like all too many deluded rescuers was never fit for the task.
"They start with the best intentions," said Lt. DeSousa. "They think they can provide for the dogs. This person got overwhelmed." In fact, all across the country, fraud rescuers make this excuse "I got in over my head." That excuse doesn't fly for abusing children, and we can hope more of these scoundrels not only get shut down, but serve some prison time.