Back in December, we broke the story about 51 dogs rescued by the Anna Shelter out of Venango County. Tonight, Samiar Nefzi takes a look back and dives deeper into nightmares of ‘The Betrayal of Man’s Best Friend’.
It’s the scene that would turn any animal lover’s stomach upside down; multiple dogs crammed into spaces barely suitable for one. Beyond the doors inside of a single-wide trailer; the unimaginable…
“We got there and, honestly, the worst I’ve ever seen,” says Ruth Thompson, Owner of the Anna Shelter. “I’ve been doing this for only 15 years, but I’ve seen some pretty crazy stuff.”
Initially thinking there would only be 20-25 dogs needed to be rescued, Thompson would soon realize that number would be doubled.
Within the first hour, the Anna Shelter and Venango County Sheriffs had taken out more than 30 dogs.
“That’s when I stopped counting. He had areas under; where they had dug trenches in the ground and laid boards above. So, the dogs were under the boards. As we were walking across the boards, I said, ‘am I going to fall through these? I don’t want to get hurt.’ He said, ‘oh no, there dogs under there.'”
By the end of the rescue, there were 51 dogs. To make it worse, 19 of them were pregnant.
Sam Lopez surrendered the dogs to the Venango County Sheriffs. Lopez’s wife, Barbara, was arrested that day on a bench warrant for a prior animal cruelty case.
“They started breeding them and selling them. The ones they didn’t sell, they kept to breed. They started breeding relatives.”
With little knowledge of proper breeding, they started to pass along birth defects.
Barbara allegedly was scamming unknowing clients.
“A lot of them were from people buying them online. I’m thinking, ‘if you would have seen where this puppy came from, there is no way in hell…'”
When looking at pictures of these little four-legged friends, it’s easy to just jump into a situation and buy one without fulling knowing the breeder’s history. There are ways to verify that you are not buying from a puppy mill.
“Call and talk to them. Ask for specific pictures… ‘Can you take a picture of my puppy next to a can of coffee? Can you send me pictures of the mom and dad?'”
Nicole Bawol, Executive Director of the Erie Humane Society, says, “looking at what the Anna Shelter did with the Venango County, it was horrendous. You’re seeing dogs coming out of a home environment, not only is it a hoarding environment situation, but it’s a puppy mill.”
The question that still begs to be answered is, ‘Why would anyone hoard these dogs?’
Nurse Manager for Safe Harbor, Nicole Moore, says, “They get really attached to objects and/or animals. They have a lot of emotions attached to those things and so, have difficulties getting rid of them.”
Moore says that the attachment can be blinding enough that leads one suffering from a hoarding disorder to believe that they are doing what’s best for the animal.
Moore says, “They’re having difficulty having insight into the conditions that are sounding them…”
Fast forward to today, Thompson says the majority of the dogs have been adopted or are in foster housing.
We have reached out to the Venango County DA’s Officer who is unable to comment on this case as it’s currently under investigation.
If you suspect someone of mistreating their animals, you can reach out to the Anna Shelter at (814) 451-0230 and/or the Humane Society at (814) 835-8331 to have them perform a wellness check, and if you would like more information on how to spot a credible breeder, visit the following links: