About 60 dogs are on their way to new lives after a rescue group came to their rescue.
The dogs, owned by Anna Shinn of Crabtree, were picked up this week by April Westling of the Loved Me But Left Me rescue in Searcy County.
Shinn said in an interview Saturday that she started out with miniature pinschers but kept taking in strays and it soon grew out of control. A neighbor said the area is a notorious dumping ground for dogs no longer wanted by their owners.
Shinn said she gave all the dogs rabies shots and worm medicine each year, but it came at a high price.
The 77-year-old widow struggled to pay feed bills and other expenses for the dogs at the cost of her health, says her friend Larry Whitworth.
Whitworth said Shinn almost starved herself to death to buy food for the dogs. Her weight dropped to below 90 pounds. A few weeks ago she fell ill and landed in a Little Rock hospital for 10 days, then spent another week at the hospital in Clinton, she said. Shinn is suffering from several health problems including bleeding ulcers and is having problems eating. Whitworth and his family brought Shinn to live in their home as they try to help nurse her back to health.
"They treat me like a queen," Shinn said.
Whitworth took over feeding the dogs and two horses that Shinn also owns.
With the cost of food and gasoline to get to the remote location in Crabtree, after almost three weeks Whitworth was at his wits’ end. He called Van Buren County Animal Control and persuaded Shinn to relinquish the dogs. Animal Control was reluctantly prepared to pick up the dogs and have all of them euthanized without ever processing them into the shelter.
When Westling stepped into the situation and Whitworth told Animal Control the problem was solved, shelter director Pam Hopkins was relieved. She said Animal Control was expecting to spend about $1,500 to euthanize the dogs, and it was not something she wanted to do.
Because of a county ordinance passed last year, Van Buren County Animal Control has cut all ties to Loved Me But Left Me, though the rescue has saved hundreds of lives of dogs at the shelter. Westling does not have a 501(c)(3) status. She said she has filled out the paperwork but there is always something better - like feeding and rescuing animals - to spend the money on.
As for the Crabtree dogs, Westling said most of them will likely end up on the East Coast, with some heading first to a rescue group in Massachusetts that specializes in working with scared dogs.
In the meantime, Westling will take them to a Batesville veterinarian for spaying, neutering and check ups. She said that except for being covered with fleas and ticks, the dogs appear to be in pretty good health.
For his part, Whitworth is breathing easier. It was obvious that he had grown fond of the dogs, but for the 67-year-old man with health problems of his own and three small grandchildren to raise, it was all too much.
Whitworth said he ran into some stone walls before he found help with the situation, including a donation of dog food from French Feed Store.
Now, Whitworth says, he knows there are "still some good people in this world."