When authorities seized more than a dozen dogs from a Santa Paula home where animal cruelty was suspected, it didn’t take long for the story to go viral. Affectionately tagged the “SPARC 17” after being welcomed by the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center — Ventura County’s first and only “no kill” shelter — the dogs have garnered attention and donations from as far away as the United Kingdom.
Eleven males and six females — Lola, Leon, Arnie, Luther, Lonnie, Amos, Kristin, Taryn, Toby, Tansy, Atlas, Kira, Tully, Kiki, Bubba, Buzz (aka Tiger) and Tito (names given by SPARC staff) — arrived at the shelter dirty, diseased and dehydrated. Many of them were injured, two severely, and clues as to what they endured are still surfacing; SPARC Administrative Liaison John Brockus told VCReporter that after 10 days in the shelter’s care, one of the dogs vomited a piece of clothing. Brockus said the dogs were suffering from neglect that veterinarians told him had easily been going on for months. “Their systems are so traumatized.”
Tansy, a 1-year-old American Staffordshire mix, had oral injuries, gum lacerations and five teeth torn from their sockets, according to a SPARC Facebook update. “Taryn arrived so traumatized she cowered in the back of her kennel for two days until she was coaxed out by hot dogs,” read the post, which also stated that three females arrived in heat, and all the dogs had stress diarrhea. None of the animals was spayed or neutered.
Lola, a pit bull mix who is approximately 4 years old and appears to have given birth recently (two of the rescues are believed to be her puppies), was in the worst condition with a severely lacerated leg infected by three antibiotic-resistant “bugs,” according to Dr. Jennifer Simpson at Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group (VMSG) in Ventura where Lola’s been in quarantine for more than a week after being transferred from Ohana Pet Hospital. In addition to her infected leg, she sustained lacerations to her muzzle, eyes and tongue.
Making good use of social media, SPARC and VMSG have been keeping upward of 9,000 followers abreast of Lola’s recovery with daily reports and photographs. SPARC has also been posting photos of the many concerned dog lovers, including people from other rescue groups, who’ve dropped off supplies like towels, food and bedding. As of last weekend, SPARC had also received $15,000 in cash donations to pay for the dogs’ medical and boarding expenses. Lola’s care alone will likely absorb more than half of it.
Experiencing what may be their first taste of human kindness, the dogs are soaking up the attention and melting the hearts of everyone who comes in contact with them — none has exhibited aggression. “They get exercised, they interact very well with people,” said Brockus. Lola has become somewhat of a celebrity with people from all over the country checking in on her recovery.
Though weary and somewhat shy, Lola is basking in the care and affection she’s receiving at VMSG, a state-of-the-art board-certified specialty hospital. Dr. Simpson initially approached Lola with caution, unsure how afraid she might be and how much pain she was experiencing. She has since become quite fond of her patient. “She is desperate for attention, very soft and gentle. I definitely trust her.” Lola as well as all the animals being treated at VMSG are taken outside for fresh air every day, something Simpson considers important for their healing.
VCReporter had the opportunity to meet Lola on day 10 of her recovery and found her to be surprisingly docile, and blissfully receptive to being stroked and praised. “She is such an interesting dog,” said Simpson. “She’s a pleasure to work with.”
At press time, she was responding so well to the powerful medication used for treating resistant infections that the leg she almost lost would be able to go bandage-free. She will be returning to SPARC where she will continue to be loved back to perfect health during the investigation into the abuse that landed her and the other 16 in the shelter. When Santa Paula police give SPARC the green light, the dogs will be adoptable.
As bad as life has been for the SPARC 17, Brockus says it’s not the worst he’s seen in his many years investigating animal cruelty, which isn’t always a result of maliciousness but sometimes due to ignorance, as in situations of animal hoarding. He urges anyone who comes into possession of a stray to bring it to the shelter immediately where they are best equipped to find the animal’s original owner or find it a new one that’s worthy of owning it.