The future is starting to get a lot brighter for the Dolton Seven – the seven dogs taken in by the South Suburban Humane Society from a dogfighting ring. When the organization rescued the dogs in early December, it was uncertain how many of them would eventually be adoptable. Now, one dog is settling into his new home and two others are now ready to be adopted.
The dogs have come a long way since the Chicago Heights shelter took them in after police broke up the dogfighting ring in nearby Dolton. What started out as an overwhelming rescue has grown into an example of great community support extending far outside the Chicago-area. The organization reached out past Chicago for help properly evaluating the dogs.
“We always evaluate all of our dogs before they are placed up for adoption. These dogs were all special cases because of what they’ve been through,” says Emily Klehm, CEO of SSHS. “I sent out emails to a lot of organizations and the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Team – the same group that evaluated the dogs in the Michael Vick Case – came out to help.”
The ASPCA team did evaluations and developed treatment and behavioral plans to help SSHS get them on track as quickly as possible. Trainers and behaviorists have worked with the dogs since then, getting them ready for adoption. At the end of December, SSHS took full custody of the dogs and arranged for them all to be either spayed or neutered.
Ripley has been adopted and two other dogs – Chloe and Lorenzo – have been cleared for adoption. The other four – Blondie, Nathaniel, Satchmo and Seagan – are all continuing behavioral training until they are ready for adoption as well. Ripley has settled in with Josh, one of the kennel staff from SSHS and was the first dog adopted.
“When the police arrived at the scene, he was serving the function of a guard dog watching the drugs and money on the scene,” says Klehm. “He was trained to be fearful of humans and it was so hard to read his emotions at first. I wasn’t really sure at first if he was going to make it. You can work through dog aggression issues, but dogs can’t be aggressive towards people. He’s made such a dramatic turnaround.”
Shelter worker Josh nurtured the dog that was so fearful of people from the start. Within two days, Ripley was asking Josh for pets. He has become very friendly to the people he knows and is getting better with strangers. Lorenzo is one of the dogs that was believed to have been fighting that night. He had extensive injuries and lost an eye. Another dog, Chloe is also looking for the perfect home.
Because of the extensive abuse these dogs have been through, the adoption process is a bit more rigorous. The shelter lists them on their Facebook page when they are ready for adoption with a closing date for all applicants. All of the dogs need to go to experienced dog owners and must be the only dog in the home. They also can’t reside with cats or small children. Adopters must also agree to in-home training for each of the dogs.
SSHS also got more great news last Thursday. It is one of just 50 shelters in the running for the ASPCA Rachel Ray $100,000 Challenge that kicks off June 1 and runs through August. The shelter that saves the most lives over the previous year will win $100,000. Shelters may also qualify to win going head to head against shelters of similar size in their own division. Those grants will be for $25,000 and another grant will be given for $25,000 for community engagement.
“No matter what happens in the contest, all the shelters are winners because they are saving lives,” adds Klehm. “That is the goal we are always looking for in animal rescue. We are an open admission shelter and in the past several years, our adoption numbers have continued to increase while our euthanasia numbers have gone down.”
Helping SSHS now
This week, the shelter will be undergoing a major overhaul – Extreme Makeover SSHS Edition. The event kicks off with an adoption event tomorrow (Wednesday) to clear the shelter prior to the work being done (read story). Volunteers and donors are still needed for the Extreme Makeover event this weekend. Learn more online or Facebook.
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