It was a devastating story. These were some of the most emaciated dogs that the animal protection officers who rescued them and the veterinarians who treated them had ever seen. In January, BC SPCA animal protection officers seized 13 starving dogs from an individual in Clearwater who was breeding and selling presa canario dogs for profit during the pandemic. Two emaciated adult dogs had been surrendered into BC SPCA custody the day before the seizure.
“The condition of these animals was just horrific,” says Eileen Drever, senior officer, protection, and stakeholder relations for the BC SPCA. “It was one of the worst cases of starvation I have seen in my 42 years with the BC SPCA.” Not only had the dogs not been given enough food, some of the dogs were kept outside all day in sub-zero temperatures, with no shelter from the elements, no food and water bowls that were frozen over.
In total, seven 10-week-old puppies and eight dogs under the age of three years were rescued. The puppies, who were in the best physical condition, were all adopted soon after they came into the BC SPCA’s care. Sadly, due to the severity of their conditions, three of the adult dogs did not respond to treatment and were euthanized to relieve their suffering.
“The dogs were truly terrible to look at when they arrived. They were cold, lethargic and uninterested in the world,” says Daria Evans, manager of the BC SPCA’s Kamloops and District Community Animal Centre, one of the two centres the adult dogs were sent to. “It took several weeks on a carefully monitored refeeding plan before they began to safely gain weight.” Not only were the dogs in horrible physical condition, they were also extremely fearful and unsocialized.
Evans adds that the dogs are now almost at their ideal weight, their coats look shiny and healthy and their eyes are bright. “if someone figured out how to harness their energy you could power a small city with it,” she says. “Bear, Sitka, Callie, and Onyx all love to play and want to be outside running around together as much as possible.” The dogs are all available for adoption.
Koda has had the happiest ending to her story. It started when she was fostered by a veterinary assistant who worked at the hospital where she received treatment. “I immediately fell in love with her,” says Hannah. “I called the BC SPCA and offered to foster her while she recovered.”
Hannah worked with the veterinarians at the hospital to help Koda gain weight. “She was skin and bones when I first met her. They put a safe refeeding plan together for me and she has gained ten kilos since she was seized.”
When Koda first arrived at Hannah’s home she was passive and scared of everything, but curious. “She would wander around the house, checking things out,” says Hannah. “She would realize that something was okay, and then move onto the next thing she was curious about. You could see her confidence building each day.”
Another dog also helped Koda to heal. “My boyfriend’s family has a one-year-old pyrenese-bernese mountain dog cross named Molly who Koda immediately bonded with,” says Hannah. “They are best friends and play and sleep together. It is the sweetest thing.”
When Koda was spayed and ready for adoption, Hannah’s job as a foster was ending. She was going to veterinary school so she couldn’t adopt her and was getting ready to return her to the BC SPCA. That is when her boyfriend Noah told her that his family wanted to adopt her. “Koda had spent a lot of time in my boyfriend’s family home and had become a support dog for Molly. She brought Molly out of her shell. The whole family fell in love with her.”
“It is funny how things turn out sometimes,” says Hannah. “Koda had been through all this trauma and ended up helping another dog. My boyfriend didn’t think I should foster Koda because he was worried about how tough it would be for me to let her go when I had to go to school, and he ended up adopting her. I am so happy he did because I can continue to be a part of her life.”