by Kyla Hurt
Rescue organization takes in animals and changes their futures
Lisa Jackson at Protecting Animal Welfare Society (P.A.W.S.) received a phone call on September 4, from the Illinois Department of Agriculture; the man on the other end of the line was desperate for help.
After reaching out to closer animal rescues with no one offering aid, he rang Jackson. “He called and said that there was a large animal case in Adams County … over 300 animals, cats and dogs. He wanted to know if I would be able to help out at all … He knew that I dealt with big dogs because he’d called me on a case previously with Mastiffs.”
Jackson agreed to help immediately and made a plea to P.A.W.S. volunteers, requesting the help of anyone available. Volunteers made multiple trips to the breeding facility in Clinton over September 4,5 and 7 that held all of the cats and large breed dogs, bringing as many back safely to P.A.W.S. with each trip. In all, 126 animals were pulled. From the Adams County breeding rescue, that included 60 female large breed dogs, 18 male large breed dogs, 18 female cats and 18 male cats. There was more than triple the number of female dogs to male dogs so that the breeding could continue as quickly as possible.
On top of the cats and large breed dogs at the facility in Clayton in Adams County, Jackson received another call. She said it was, “about a house in Southern Illinois … four-room house … 56 dogs.” From that came 26 small dogs. Additionally, she had already committed to a rescue of less than 10 animals weeks before.
Area rescues such as the Animal Protective League in Springfield, TAPS No-Kill Animal Shelter in Pekin, Mandy’s Whine and Bark Animal Rescue in White Hall and Scott County Dog Rescue in Winchester took some to help out, but P.A.W.S. was still left with 88 animals.
Jackson discussed the conditions of the breeding/hoarding facility of self-proclaimed breeders Andrea Hapke and Brad Kestner, both of Clayton. “It was absolutely horrid. Of course, by the time I got there, they [Dept. of Ag. staff] had given them food and water, but the smell was absolutely horrendous. The cat house … they had dishpans that they were using for litter boxes, but they were full, full of [feces] … and the cats were just [pooping] everywhere. At one time, I’m sure it was a beautiful setup, but there was nobody taking care of them … The care there was so awful that the employees couldn’t handle it [and most all quit and continued to report it] … The calls I got from one girl, I mean, she was just bawling she was so upset and she’d quit two years ago … I mean, thank God for the former employees and stuff that were insistent and persistent about it,” exclaimed Jackson.
Some images of the animals are too nauseating to run with this article. Hapke and Kestner allowed these animals to live caked in feces and urine, or so matted that shaving was the only option.
According to reports and images posted on Facebook by those involved, many suffered from medical conditions that could have easily been treated; yet, they allowed them to suffer. Some animals were found with botfly infestations, large open wounds or lacerations, while some were found dead on site.
Hapke and Kestner both sold under a myriad of websites. Sadly, the so-called breeding continues. As of Sept. 24, Hapke had posted five-week-old pups for sale on a puppyfind.com.
All of these animals were finally in a place with air-conditioning, to have the cats in a place with fresh air that didn’t reek of ammonia. They were named. “We don’t do the number. You’re a being … I want to yell, ‘Hey Pitter-Patter or Aspen.”
There aren’t dog doors at P.A.W.S. “I know that sound silly, but the reason I don’t want dog doors here is if they’re out in the kennel and go out to the runs, somebody has to open the door and touch the dog three or four times a day … I want the dog to touch people. I want the people to touch dogs. I want the volunteers to interact with them … get to know their personality.”
As far as the number of animals that were rescued, all of them survived. They were given what they need and P.A.W.S. has received so much from so many to allow these animals a better place. “Jacksonville … all the P.A.W.S. supporters are amazing. It never fails,” said Jackson.
Jackson talked of so many that help with her rescue: Aire-Serv comes whenever there’s an issue and has donated a lot; Kelly and Larry Johnisee of For Your Floors come every Thursday night and fostered eight dogs from this particular rescue; Rob Thomas and Jackson share a reoccurring catchphrase of ‘Whatcha dooo-iiing?’ to which the reply is a laugh with a quick, ‘What do you need?’ Her list of volunteers was of valid importance, as she listed them out: Connie Powell; Mona Lashmett; Tracy Young; Ronnie Hatcher; Rick Klinker; McKenzie Stice; Kyli Schofield; Patty Wilson; Tedd and Melissa Lowe; Anna Coats; Rob Thomas; Rosalie Bugg; Marge Griffith; Abbi and Clint Stevens; Holly Hughes; Cathy Hagemeier; Luke and Adam Jackson; Athena Woods; Hope Engelmann; Lily and Kenzie Thomas; Linda McDannald; and Larry, Kelli and Conor Johnisee.
Cass Veterinary Services’ office in Jacksonville at 1101 W. Walnut St. was instrumental in the outlook of the animals. Jackson complimented Dr. Dan Bergerud, veterinary technician Anna Coats and Dr. Joshua Castenada, along with the rest of the staff at Cass Veterinary Services.
On Tuesday, September 8, the vet began working on the rescued animals. Vet technician Abby Tomhave said, “Tuesdays are rescue day. Our mornings here are solely for rescue … doing anything that the rescues need.”
Tomhave shared that on Friday, September 11, “Dr. Dan did 16 spays before lunch … his count at the end of the day was 42 surgeries. Then, he came in on Saturday to do more.”
The animals needed attention. Jackson said of the amazing work done by the team at Cass Vet, “Dan [Bergerud] has said that he’s dedicating the whole day to us [Friday, Sept. 11] and he is zipping through them like crazy, so huge shout out to him … I’m having trouble keeping up with how fast they are getting through these animals … spaying, neutering, rabies vaccine, heartworm test … I mean, they are just boom, boom, boom.”
Just over that first Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, the vet office completed 71 surgeries, according to Tomhave. Over these last Tuesdays, Bergerud and Castenada have continued to finish up from that particular rescue.
They are a nonprofit, but there is still a lot to handle financially. Veterinary services are a cost, especially in a case like this. “For the first 10, we get a rescue discount, but because P.A.W.S. places so many … after 10, we pay what the public would pay,” explained Jackson.
The rescue has costs just like any other business. Plus, there are additional medical issues or needs otherwise that arise. Many times, this is not reflected in the adoption fee for one of those animals. At this time especially, for those who wish to help out, Jackson says they need paper towels, non-ammonia cleaning solution, or simply monetary donations of any value as all are appreciated. If one prefers, donations can go directly to help out with veterinary bills at Cass Veterinary Services by calling 217-452-7292 and asking it to go toward P.A.W.S. They welcome volunteers, or “manpower – someone who’s not afraid to get dirty.” To volunteer, call the machine at 217-243-7297 or message the P.A.W.S. page on Facebook.
Of note, within hours after Jackson reached out for help via social media about this huge rescue, the community responded with incredible support, fundraising and donations. “I think the only other one that we had this much feedback on was Hurricane Harvey,” exclaims Jackson. She expressed how sincerely grateful she continues to be for this community.
As they have worked tirelessly to bring these animals to safety, they understand how so many are anxious and excited to love these furballs and want to welcome one into their home, but it is the care of the dogs and the cats that comes first. Jackson requests that to keep the process of adoptions as smooth and quick as possible, please leave only one message on the answering machine.
Messages are returned in order. P.A.W.S calls back and holds a verbal interview and application over the phone, requesting references. The first approved application for an animal is called and can hold the animal one week for a $25 non-refundable fee. At that point right now because of COVID-19, the approved applicant comes to P.A.W.S. in that week during the available times, fills out paperwork, takes a sweet new family photo and heads home with their new furry family member.