By Lee J. Kahrs
PITTSFORD — The story of the animals seized from a farm on Kimball Road in Brandon five months ago is heartbreaking, inspiring and expensive.
The Rutland County Humane Society knows that all too well, having spent roughly $35,000 to care for and re-home the animals it took in from the farm. Out of the 400 animals seized, the humane society took in 12 dogs, 31 cats and 14 rabbits.
Director Beth Saradarian said factoring in medical costs, including treatment for worms, and spaying and neutering, the price of taking in the animals rose quickly.
And like the animals at the Kinder Way Sanctuary in Benson, which took in roughly 250 pigs, goats, chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, and rabbits, almost all of the animals were pregnant or became pregnant soon after the seizure.
Saradarian said the 14 rabbits were in very poor health.
“We couldn’t figure out which were males and which were females,” she said, “because their genitals were inflamed and swollen and they had parasites.”
There’s a saying we won’t reprint here about the sex life of rabbits, and that’s what happened with the bunnies at the shelter. Since the staff couldn’t separate the males from the females, the females got pregnant and produced 62 baby rabbits while at the humane society. That raised costs exponentially for a total of 129 animals.
Saradarian was at the Kimball Road farm the night of the seizure and said she helped rescue the rabbits herself.
“It was just picking up rabbits left and right,” she said. “There was one dead rabbit in the middle of it all.”
She said the care for the rabbits was particularly expensive.
“They were full of parasites,” she said. “They required lots of medical care, spaying, neutering, food, water, and timothy hay.”
And if you ever wondered if there was a special network of rabbit lovers poised to come to the aid of bunnies everywhere, wonder no more. The House Rabbit Society based in Richmond, Calif. helped the humane society with almost all of the rabbit adoptions using what they call the Bunderground Railroad. No kidding.
“They also helped transport the moms and babies to where they needed to go,” Saradarian said. “All of the adult rabbits have been adopted.”
There are now just 12 baby rabbits left at the shelter that are not quite old enough for adoption.
Saradarian said she also caught many of cats from the farmhouse at the Kimball Road farm during the seizure, 14 adult cats, then another 14 adult cats the second day. All of them were feral, or wild, except one, which was pregnant and gave birth to three kittens.
“They hadn’t seen the light of day and were just hunkered down,” she said.
But the feral cats all had to be put down, because there is no way to re-home a feral cat.
“Even if we had spayed and neutered them and given them all their shots, there would be no quality of life for them,” Saradarian said. “They would just try to get home again and get hit by cars. We just tried to keep them calm and comfortable.”
Maremma sheepdogs are an Italian breed of livestock guardian dog similar to the Great Pyrenees. They are large with long, bushy white coats and big brown eyes. Saradarian said that one of the females was pregnant and gave birth to 10 puppies not long after they brought her to the shelter. Only two puppies lived, and both have neurological issues.
“The mother had pyometra, a uterine infection caused by sitting in filth,” Saradarian said.
Fortunately, the shelter partnered with Karen O’Brien-Maynard of the National Maremma Sheepdog Rescue Network in Pennsylvania, who paid for the mother’s spaying and half the cost of the pyometra treatment, roughly $1,200 total. The rescue was also
instrumental in finding good homes for the Maremmas.
Wunderland Pet Lodge in North Clarendon was also involved in the Maremmas’ care, taking seven or eight of the dogs for the six weeks following the seizure while the shelter figured out how to house all of the animals and the dogs and cats it already had.
The cost to care for these dogs grew over the months. The last one was adopted out just three weeks ago, Saradarian said.
“The dogs were with us for some time,” she said. “They were not socialized, but their personalities came around. We were able to work with them and they worked with us. The staff was great.”
But the Covid-19 pandemic made the adoption process for all of the animals much longer, since people could not come to the shelter to see the animals in person. That made their stay at the humane society even longer than it should have been, which made their care more expensive.
“They ate four cups of food, twice a day.” Saradarian said. “They were filthy, they were full of parasites, round worms, whips, tape worms… there were so many fecal samples and testing.”
When the last dog was adopted last month, Saradarian said the whole staff came out to take pictures and wish her well in her new home.
“It was nice,” she said. “We had them a long time and we loved them all. It was nice to see them come so far. It was really nice.”
Saradarian said the shelter normally takes in about 1,200 animals a year with an annual budget of about $600,000.
“So, for us to take in 129 with all the births was a lot,” she said. “It was a zoo, and then Covid hit. This was a lot of animals.”
All told, Saradarian said the Rutland County Human Society spent $19,000 on the dogs from Kimball Road, $8,000 caring for the rabbits, and $2,500 on the cats, for a total of almost $30,000, not including staff overtime costs.
Saradarian has been involved in more than a few animal seizure cases during her tenure at the humane society, but she said Kimball Road was one the biggest, and the most expensive.
“It’s the largest seizure from a financial standpoint especially, because the care went on for a long time, and there were just so many animals,” she said.