BHS to the rescue

The closure of a Forest Ranch kennel brings sick dogs and confusion

The nature of Butte Humane Society’s service to the community brings with it challenges big and small—and unexpected. An example arose just this past week in the form of a confusing mass surrender.

The recent closure of a private kennel in Forest Ranch brought a half-dozen new dogs to the Fair Street shelter. That’s not the most worrisome part: All six malamute mixes were heartworm-positive, and BHS Executive Director Heather Schoeppach worries that the kennel’s owner may have given away other dogs that also could have heartworm.

The owner of the closed kennel, David Murray, originally told BHS that he had up to 30 dogs to surrender. That number changed to 18, then seven on Monday (Dec. 15). Also on Monday, Butte County Animal Control reported picking up two strays in the Forest Ranch area, but there’s no way to know if they came from Murray’s property.

When news of the animals hit the shelter last week, Schoeppach didn’t immediately worry. But when tests on the first five (one had to be put down for being overly aggressive) came back positive for heartworm—and showed at least two of the females pregnant—she went into overdrive.

“I’ve been calling around to other shelters to see if I can place as many as I can,” she said. As of press time, two rescues had agreed to take a pregnant female each. As for the rest, she said, “if we can’t raise enough money to treat them—heartworm treatment costs about $400 a case—then unfortunately we’ll have to euthanize them.”

When Murray approached BHS, he explained that he had lost his kennel license because there had been dead dogs on his property, and he had about 30 animals to surrender. Since then, his story has changed.

“I lost the house,” he said slowly over the phone, “to foreclosure. I didn’t lose the kennel license—that was good through February. But it’s kind of hard to keep the animals when you don’t have a house.”

But he didn’t have a kennel license. According to Craig Erickson, deputy director of Butte County Environmental Health, who oversees Animal Control, Murray had been going through the process of getting a license for some time. He had gotten a use permit for an 18-dog kennel, through the Butte County Planning Commission, in January 2007, a step that’s required before seeking a kennel license. But he never applied for a kennel license after that, Erickson said.

Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, and because the first five all tested positive, Schoeppach predicted they all would. In addition to the adults, if the puppies are delivered healthy, they, too, will have to undergo treatment before being adopted, as heartworm is not only contagious, but also deadly.

Schoeppach is reaching out to the community to embrace these animals and is putting a call out for individuals or groups to sponsor a heartworm treatment—or to act as foster families while treatment is sought. For more information, call the shelter at (530) 343-7917.

She is also hoping to put the word out to anyone who may have adopted an animal from Murray within the past six months. Those dogs should be tested for heartworm and the females could be pregnant, she said.