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47 badly neglected dogs rescued; Local sanctuary faces $14,000 in vet bills

Deadly Parvo-virus found in pack rescued from hoarding house

A small dog sanctuary outside Thorold is facing $14,000 in veterinary bills after a large group of dogs rescued from a hoarding house in Thunder Bay got hit with the disease Parvo.

The highly contagious virus, causing bloody diarrhea and vomiting among animals, has a mortality rate of 91% - and requires surgical-grade disinfection of both indoor- and outdoor surfaces to prevent it from spreading.

"We are spraying the ground of our play area with bleach water through a pump that you normally would use for pesticides. That and rubbing alcohol is the only thing that kills it. it can live for close to a year outside and thrives in the cold", owner Kim Height says as she gives a tour of the facility tucked away behind some trees along Highway 20.

The smell of bleach from the indoor pound seeps outside and empty bottles of Clorox tell of a few harrowing days after the dogs arrived.

It all began in early February when Kim Height and her partner Michelle Goodburn were notified that a fellow shelter in Thunder Bay had discovered 50 dogs trapped in a hoarding situation.

The house was inundated with feces, urine and hardly any surface for the large group of dogs to move around in, leaving the badly neglected dogs with underdeveloped hind legs.

47 of the 50 dogs made it out of the house, and a good portion of them came to Toronto, where Kim drove to pick up ten of them, packed in crates.

"The smell in the car was overwhelming, of feces and sweat. It really was a gagging stench", Kim recounts.

What she did not know was that her car was a ticking biological bomb.

Once they had been installed in the shelters pound and work began to stabilize the severely neglected dogs, worrisome signs started appearing in Athena, one of the small-breed dogs.

"She wasn't well. Her breathing wasn't right so we rushed her to Niagara Veterinary Clinic. They took her in, and the bloodwork showed Parvo. We were pretty devastated", Michelle Goodburn says.

The couple were aware of the feared condition but had no experience with it, but that was about to change.

The disease had spread in the group, and all 10 had to be taken in with staff at the animal hospital working overnight just to care for the dogs who were vomiting and battling dehydration.

Michelle and Kim also had to burn the midnight oil, sanitizing virtually the entire compound, ground and all.

"I think we cleaned until 3:30 in the morning. Our hands were pretty rough from all the bleach", Kim says.

One of the 10 dogs that came to Dreamers, Athena, died, and many dogs in the pack were affected by the virus.

Of the nine remaining at Dreamers, the dog Hugo is still being monitored at the animal hospital, and the couple remains hopeful that he will pull through.

Now, a few more weeks of quarantine is in store for the dogs, mainly small breeds, before they are ready to begin the adoption process.

But the ordeal has left Dreamers with a massive $14,000 bill just for the management of the disease.

On top of that, all dogs will need vaccinations, spaying and neutering and dental work.

Dreamers now plead for support through a GoFundMe that on Monday had raised just under $2,500.

But while financial support is crucial to the couple, education about Parvo and the importance of vaccination is equally high on their list.

"It's something that you hear about but never think will hit you. We just hope people will spread the word, immunize their dogs and take them for checkups", Kim says.

Editors note: The article has been updated and an incorrect location for the hoarding house removed.

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Ludvig Drevfjall

About the Author: Ludvig Drevfjall

Ludvig Drevfjall has been the editor of ThoroldToday since January 2020. He has worked as a journalist in Sweden, British Columbia and Ontario
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