Chalan Lowry remembers the pony which was in a “hideous” state after being rescued from a barn.
âWhen I saw this pony a few years ago, all I could think of was how quickly can we end its suffering,â said the executive director of the Portage Animal Protection League. “I mean, it was one of the worst things I have ever seen in my life. I think what shocked me the most was knowing that people had to see it every day. and that they were okay with seeing it. âIt brings tears to my eye again thinking about it.
And she remembers the dog who should have weighed at least 100 pounds, but weighed 42 pounds when he was rescued.
âPeople had to watch this everyday and see this dog wasting away, like a bone patch, and do nothing about it,â she said. âYes, there have been a lot of terrible cases over the years. But, you know, the reality is that most of the things we see are pretty happy. It’s pretty sad, but the results are positive, which allows us to stay fairly sane. “
This is life on the front lines of the fight against animal cruelty in Portage County. As a humanitarian company under state law, Portage APL employs a humanitarian worker who is responsible for investigating complaints of cruelty and laying charges in some cases.
One case still under investigation was the rescue of six neglected horses from Rootstown Road on September 2. One of them, a male named Zeus, died less than a week later despite intensive care. A mare is showing signs of improvement, but is still in danger and faces months of rehabilitation. The other four horses still need care, but are in better shape. An Arabian horse, however, has a badly damaged ankle that is likely permanent, Lowery said. No charges have been laid, at least not yet.
“We continue to collect evidence and witness statements as part of the investigation,” Lowry said Friday.
Portage County LPA Receives Lots of Help
The Portage APL shelter, located at 8122 Infirmary Road in Ravenna, can accommodate 25 dogs and 75 cats, Lowry said.
On several occasions, the establishment has seen other species including rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, pot-bellied pigs, chickens, ducks, horses, goats, farm pigs and even tarantulas.
âAlmost everything that is a pet is in our wheelhouse, but most of the time we have dogs and cats,â Lowry said.
The Portage APL is considered a âno-killâ refuge – a phrase Lowry said she doesn’t like – because it meets the national standard for euthanasia of no more than 10% of the animals it does. it hosts.
âWe would only euthanize an animal if it was necessary,â said Lowry. âSo, for example, we did heart surgery on a dog this year, we amputated legs, cleaned the teeth. We do whatever we can to rehabilitate a sick animal. “
In some cases, an animal can be euthanized if it is considered “vicious,” which Lowry says could be due to abuse.
âBut in any case, we are not going to adopt a dog that is going to potentially harm someone or harm our staff or volunteers,â she said.
The director of the shelter, Cynthia Williams, is a certified veterinary technician who can meet basic medical needs. For more complicated things, such as surgeries, animals are sent off-site.
âWe have a great relationship with many local vets,â said Lowry.
FOCUS Rescue and Rehabilitation and Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary work with farm animals and horses
The PLA also has other allies in the county. This includes volunteers who host animals and other facilities in the county. The six horses, for example, were placed in the care of FOCUS Rescue and Rehabilitation, a non-profit organization located at 645 Manning Road in Mogadore that specializes in horses.
APL also works with Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary, also a non-profit organization, at 5623 New Milford Road in Ravenna.
âFarm animals and horses are the ones we save,â said Lissy Kuhn, Happy Trails Donor Stewardship Coordinator. âWe have a great variety. Right now we have pot-bellied pigs, farm pigs, roosters – many of those roosters were fighting roosters – alpacas, goats.
Kuhn said that as a rule, Happy Trails has 100 to 150 animals on about 11 acres. She said some came from people who had to “relocate” them for various reasons, but Happy Trails’ main mission over its 20-year history has been to save animals that have been abused and neglected. It has also welcomed animals from outside the county, even from Pennsylvania.
âSo we’re not just limiting it to Ohio, we’re not limiting it to certain counties,â Kuhn said.
Visit https://happytrailsfarm.org and https://www.focusrescueandrehab.org for more information on Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary and FOCUS Rescue and Rehabilitation, respectively. Kuhn said the public can register on the Happy Trails website to take tours every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through October.
âIt’s a great way to get out and really be involved, to meet the animals and hear their stories,â she said.
Animal abuse investigations can be difficult
Lowry said that for multiple reasons, complaints of abuse and neglect rarely lead to criminal charges. For example, she estimated that the Portage LPA receives maybe 2,000 complaints a year, but estimates that charges have only been laid twice this year.
On the one hand, Lowry said, human officers have to follow the same kinds of rules that police officers have to follow. Evidence is needed, with particularly important photos and videos.
âWe will need to have enough evidence to enter their house through a judge,â Lowry said. âA lot of times you go to someone’s house and they’re happy to show off their animals and let us into their home. And that’s a scenario. This is what we hope for.
When there is a lack of cooperation, this is where it can get tricky, although it may still be possible to gather evidence.
âSometimes the animals are visible to us from the road, from the driveway, from the house of a neighbor who allowed us to enter their property,â Lowry said.
The investigations begin with someone filing a complaint with Holly Ebner, the humanitarian worker at Portage APL. This can be done by phone, 330-296-4022 ext. 102; by email at [email protected]; or via the APL website, https://portageapl.org. It can also be done in person. Ebner then takes a report and conducts an investigation.
âSometimes the laws are broken. Sometimes people just need a little help or advice, âLowry said.
And this is another reason why charges are rarely laid, as in many cases it is more about helping people, such as through a pet feeding program that the APL manages for owners of animals in need or an education in the care of their animals, and that is enough.
“The reality is that some animals get overlooked because people aren’t nice, but most animals get overlooked because people need help or have had tough times or things are tough during awhile, âLowry said.
And finally, not everything the PLA receives complaints about is against the law. For example, while it’s undesirable for a dog to be left outside most of the time, Lowry said, it’s not necessarily illegal.
âOur hearts sometimes want one thing, but the law allows very specific things,â she said.
“I knew it would be part of my life forever”
Saving abused animals can be both sad and happy. Kuhn said she started Happy Trails as a volunteer in 2009, took a hiatus to get a social services degree from Kent State University and work in the domestic violence field, but then returned in 2019 .
âI’ve grown up around horses my whole life,â Kuhn said. “And there is nothing better than rubbing the belly of a pot-bellied pig. Once there I knew it would be a part of my life forever.
Lowery said it felt good to know that she wasn’t “part of the problem.”
“The good things are really, really good and the bad things are really, really bad, but in the end the good things outweigh the bad and you end up feeling, generally, like you’re doing something really right. every day, âshe said.
Lowry said a pony in a hideous condition ended up being euthanized, but the 42-pound dog had a better fate.
âThis dog has lived and is in a happy home and I am still getting updates,â she said. “The dog weighs 110 pounds and lives an amazing life with wonderful people”,
Journalist Jeff Saunders can be contacted at [email protected]