It’s clearly been a rough life so far for the nearly 140 dogs, including several puppies, we helped rescue this morning from a densely-wooded, five-acre property in Dixie County, Florida.

As members of our Animal Rescue Team, who were assisting the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office, arrived on the property in the pouring rain, they witnessed dozens of barking dogs housed in ramshackle, hutch-like structures. The hutches were filthy, caked with feces, and leaking from the heavy rain.

There were no permanent buildings on the property, just a few campers packed with more dogs, and a dilapidated, 980-square-foot mobile home. Inside were three dogs huddled protectively together, nearly all of their fur missing.

Our team is taking every dog from the property today and transporting them to a temporary animal shelter. The animals are clearly suffering from severe neglect—some had no apparent access to food and water and most appear to be ailing from skin conditions characterized by missing fur, sores and itchy skin. Clearly they will need all of the medical attention and TLC we can give them in weeks to come.

Dozens of dogs were housed in ramshackle, hutch-like structures, with more dogs in campers and a mobile home on the property.
Photo by Meredith Lee/The HSUS
Dozens of dogs were housed in ramshackle, hutch-like structures, with more dogs in campers and a mobile home on the property.

Over the years, and over dozens of such rescues, our Animal Rescue Team has seen it all. But as Laura Koivula, deputy manager of animal crimes for the Humane Society of the United States described it, this scene was as tragic as it gets.

As we always find with these rescues, while some of the animals who are visibly suffering are understandably nervous when they face their rescuers, most are also resilient and bond immediately. One of our staffers told me about a mother dog who, upon seeing the team, immediately walked up to the front of the hutch, tail wagging. Behind her were several puppies, likely no more than a couple of days old.

Altogether, all but three of the approximately 140 dogs rescued from the property were surrendered to us today. The three who were not surrendered will be expertly cared for along with the surrendered dogs as the court process decides their eventual outcome.

Florida has strong animal cruelty laws in place and in coming weeks, we hope law enforcement will successfully hold those responsible for this neglect accountable. Meanwhile we will be working to help these dogs return to good health and spirits. As always, this will require a tremendous amount of resources, and we are grateful to our partners who have stepped in to help, including the Alex and Elisabeth Lewyt Charitable Trust, which is making a generous donation to help support the expert care and supplies needed for the rescued animals, and, which is donating food for the dogs.

This rescue and others is just one of many ways that we are helping animals every day. Please help support all of our fights.