Two dogs that were saved in a massive animal cruelty seizure in southwestern La Plata County last week are well on their way to recovery, thanks in part to a local Durango groomer who freed the animals from their horribly tangled mess.
“I’ve never seen anything this bad,” said Nicole Ferguson, co-owner of The Dapper Dog, a mobile dog grooming business that opened in April. “They had to have been like that for years.”
On Wednesday, about 110 animals – including dogs, a cat, pigs, goats, sheep, horses, a burro, one duck, chickens and cattle – were seized from a resident’s property in southwestern La Plata County.
A citation was issued for animal cruelty, according to a La Plata County news release. However, the identity of the resident and the exact location of the seizure were not disclosed because the investigation is ongoing.
“Further information will be forthcoming when it becomes available,” La Plata County’s statement said.
That same day, Ferguson, who regularly offers her company’s services to the La Plata County Humane Society free of charge, received a call about the seizure and was asked if she could help groom two dogs in bad shape.
The two dogs – female shih tzu mixes about 4 to 5 years old – had severely matted hair, which can make it painful for the animals to move and see. There was also a strong odor of feces, Ferguson said.
It took two hours for each dog to remove the solid, matted hair, which came off in one piece.
“As I was shaving that off, they just started having personality,” Ferguson said. “When they were all cleaned up and bathed, they were wagging their tails and seemed a lot better.”
Ferguson said she cleaned one dog on Wednesday, and had to return for the second on Thursday. The dog cleaned Wednesday generally seemed happy, wagging her tail and welcoming the much-needed grooming.
“She was a lot more perky,” Ferguson said. “She was totally fine being held and touched, and was very good for the groom.”
The second dog, on the other hand, was in far worse shape, Ferguson said.
While the matted hair caused the dogs pain, Ferguson said there should be no lingering effects, and the dogs’ coat of fur will likely grow back.
However, Ferguson said the second dog’s nails hadn’t been cut in years. As a result, they grew so long the nails had curled up, puncturing the dog’s pads and altering the structure of her joints and paws.
“A dog’s pads are usually rough and black,” she said. “Hers were pink and fleshy, and she hasn’t walked on them in ages, so they’re very sensitive. I’m not sure how long it’ll take for them to toughen up. And she’ll probably have arthritis issues with her feet.”
For the most part – and given the circumstances – Ferguson said the dogs are healthy and should make great pets for a new home. Despite the horribly disheveled state they arrived in, Ferguson said the dogs had no serious wounds – just a couple scrapes and scabs.
The second dog, though more reserved, probably just needs a little loving to get back to normal, Ferguson said.
“She wasn’t bad or mean,” she said. “She just seemed a little more pitiful. It’ll probably take a little longer for her to warm up to somebody.”
The dogs are not currently up for adoption as the investigation continues.
La Plata County’s spokeswoman Megan Graham said last week all seized animals are being cared for, but she declined to say where they were receiving care.
The animals were apparently taken as part of a “lengthy investigation” with multiple agencies participating.
Ferguson said the conditions of the two shih tzus were the worst she’s seen.
“I was just so glad I could help,” she said.