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Puppy rescue story the heart of larger issues

Thor and Loki, two abandoned pups now residing at the Mobridge animal rescue, have become famous in South Dakota.
Their pictures have been on the front pages of newspapers and their story has been told on state news sources from radio to television.
It is a horrendous tale of abandonment and near death that the pups only avoided because a landlord went to a property she owned in McLaughlin, after she found out the renters left unexpectedly.
The people who had lived in the home left behind the two pups, thought to be purebred chocolate Labradors, without food and water three weeks prior to their discovery.
The landlord found the pups in what has been described as deplorable conditions in the home, according to the news stories.
The pictures of the pups, with ribs and hip bones so prominent they could easily be counted, covered by skin sagging from dehydration, tugs at the heartstrings.
Normally Tami Schanzenbach, who runs the Wamakaskan Onsica (our pitiful animals in Lakota) Humane Society located at her business, Pets N Stuff, in Mobridge, shies away from the kind of publicity that she has allowed in this case. She hopes that the media attention will help in the prosecution of the people who perpetrated the crime and left these animals to die.
The tone in Schanzenbach’s voice is a bit different when she talks about this case. Anyone who knows her knows she is a soft-spoken, kind advocate for all creatures. Her adult life has been spent creating safe havens for abused animals. Schanzenbach helped to start the Aberdeen Humane Society when she lived there years ago. Since moving to this area Schanzenbach has worked to create a system that helps animals that neglectful owners have failed. Recently she was granted the 501 3C non-profit status and took over the Wamakaskan Onsica rescue.
This case angered Schanzenbach. It is one that deserves the attention.
But Schanzenbach hopes the real story is not buried in details of Thor and Loki’s saga.
The people who work with Schanzenbach at her store and rescue have seen this scenario played out time and time again. From numerous dogs that have been brought back to health and placed in with responsible owners, to the multitude of cats and kittens that have been housed, fed and loved by the people who work there, Thor and Loki are just one of many of these stories. Animals are dumped at or near the business on a regular basis. Dogs are dumped in rural areas and found by Good Samaritans that bring them to the rescue.

Real problem
The real problem in this and many other instances that play out at the rescue is the irresponsible people who fail in their responsibilities as a pet owner.
They are the people who take an animal into their homes and fail to have them properly vaccinated, properly fed and watered and properly protected from the elements.
“When people do get a puppy or kitten, they are committed to care for their pet for its whole life,” said Schanzenbach. “Pets are not just for the convenience of the people who adopt them.”
It is not only the proper home environment of the pet that is a problem in South Dakota, but also the owner’s failing to have animals spayed or neutered. In the past two days, ten cats and kittens have been brought to the store, according to Schanzenbach.
“It’s kitten season,” she said.
In fact, the rescue takes in so many cats and kittens, there have been times it has been overwhelmed with the numbers. These animals need healthy, nutritious food, medical care that has been neglected (vaccinations, care for diseases) and spaying or neutering.
All of this cost adds up. The burden of the cost of bringing some of these animals back to health has fallen on Schanzenbach’s shoulders, unless donations to the rescue keep up with the demand of the animals in her care.
It has become easier financially since she has received her affiliation with the Humane Society, but that does not always cover the costs of the rescue.

A large part of what happens at the facility could be avoided if owners would be responsible according to Schanzenbach. Getting pets spayed and neutered could make a huge difference in the state’s animal abandonment, neglect and abuse problems.

Thor and Loki
There are cases, like that of Thor and Loki, that are special cases. The pups were so emaciated when they came to the rescue that any food was gulped down. In order to keep the pups from getting sick from overeating or eating too fast and vomiting the food up, the staff feeds them small amounts four times a day to help them break the gulping habit. So far, the pups have gained about 15 pounds each, are becoming more social and playful and are showing many other positive signs. Now that they are recovering, Schanzenbach said they are looking more like there are not purebred Labradors, but may have some Kelpie or other breed mixed in.
The pups may soon be healthy enough for their bodies to withstand other medical needs, such as the second round of deworming and their vaccinations. They have been vaccinated for parvo, which was a necessity for housing them with other animals.
But the effect of what they have been through also shows through other behaviors. Schanzenbach said ideally, she would like to find someone willing to take both pups, rather than put them through the trauma of being separated.
“They are litter mates we have assumed,” she said. “They have been through a lot together and I would like to see them stay together.”
For now, they are recovering from their ordeal in a safe, warm place, where people are showing them love and kindness.
Schanzenbach is helping to pursue those who left the pups to die and to face punishment allowed by law for their actions. Hopefully the publicity the case has generated will push the case to that end.
In the meantime, Schanzenbach hopes information about the responsibility of ownership, education about the importance of spaying and neutering and necessary medical care of pets will also be heard through Thor and Loki’s story.
Anyone wanting to donate to the rescue, contact Schanzenbach or who is interested in giving the pups or any other of the animals at the rescue, a loving responsible home, can do so through the Pets N Stuff Facebook page or by calling the store at 845-5700.
– Katie Zerr –