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Many moved to help rescue W.Va. dogs

May 18, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A day after more than two dozen Russian wolfhounds were removed from squalor in a north Berkeley County house, dog rescuers from three states drove to Martinsburg to take them in.

Tracy Cooper, a Berkeley County animal control officer, said scores of people inquired about adopting the dogs, many of which were mangy and timid. Cooper said she left her office for an hour Thursday and came back to find 21 messages on the answering machine.

Frank M. Snodgrass, 48, who had the dogs in his house, has been charged with animal cruelty, according to Jason Ahalt, an animal control officer who was one of the first people on the scene.

At about 3 a.m. Wednesday, West Virginia State Police responded to a 911 call for shots fired and a woman screaming for help at a Spring Mills home. Inside, feces was strewn about and there were at least a dozen dogs, said Ahalt, whom police called for assistance.

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Ahalt said he couldn't believe the conditions in the house. "It was the craziest thing I ever saw in my life," he said.

Feces covered the floor in piles ranging from 1 to 3 feet high, he said.

There was a chain-link fence in the kitchen, creating an inside kennel where nine dogs were kept, he said. The feces there was about 2 1/2 -feet high, he said.

Ahalt said one of the dogs bit him on the hand and arm, but it wasn't serious.

Ahalt and the two troopers encountered such a horrific smell that they left and called the Bedington Volunteer Fire Department to bring in air packs, Ahalt said.

The Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Co. also assisted on the call. Ahalt said many volunteers deserve credit for their help.

Animal control officials said that there were 29 wolfhounds, known as Borzois, in the house. Twenty-two of them were taken to the Berkeley County Animal Control Center, where they shared six large pens for a day.

A mother and her four puppies were kept together and taken to the Berkeley County Humane Society, but the smallest of the puppies died Wednesday night, Cooper said.

Ahalt said another two dogs had necks so skinny that they slipped their collars and ran away outside. They were not caught.

Snodgrass was arraigned Thursday morning on one count of animal cruelty and released on $5,000 bond.

Cooper said Snodgrass' wife, whose name was not available, was taken to the hospital, but a nursing supervisor at City Hospital refused to give out information about her condition.

Susan Sills of Summersville, W.Va., went to the county's animal center Thursday afternoon after hearing about the dogs through her involvement in the National Borzoi Foundation. She said each breed of dog has its own national rescue group.

Rita Linck of Allentown, Pa., arrived later. Together, Linck and Sills washed a few of the grimiest dogs. Several of the light-colored, shaggy wolfhounds had dirt matted into their hindquarters. A few quivered constantly, while others lay motionless in clusters.

"I've never seen anything like this, and I've been doing this for 20 years," Sills said.

"Some of these dogs are pathetically depressed," she said. "They just look horribly neglected. This is disgusting."

Rhoda Mann of Rhoadesville, Va., who raises a rare African breed called Azawakh, took two dogs that had to be shorn.

Leslie Carroll of Allentown, Pa., who drove to Martinsburg with her mother, Anita Walker, also retrieved some of the dogs.

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