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On a 'shoestring budget', local group aids rescued spaniels

Seventeen cocker spaniels rescued by Cocker Spaniel Resources were brought to a pickup site in the bed of a pickup truck. CSR President Jan DeCraene estimated the temperature at the time was 9 below zero. (Submitted photo)

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For more information about the nonprofit Cocker Spaniel Resources Inc., visit or call (715) 222-9532. The mailing address is P.O. Box 822, Hudson, WI 54016.

TROY, Wis. -- On a subzero day in March, volunteers from a Troy-based rescue group drove to a quiet church parking lot to take possession of 17 cocker spaniels with severe eye, ear and skin injuries.

The dogs were brought to the meeting spot huddled in crates that were stacked haphazardly in the back of a pickup. They were transferred to towel-cushioned individual crates loaded into two climate-controlled SUVs.

However, said Cocker Spaniel Resources President Jan DeCraene, because the dogs hadn’t been in a heated building, the rescuers had to keep the inside temperatures low to make sure the dogs didn’t go into shock from being overheated in transport.

Two months earlier, the St. Croix County volunteers had taken another 17 cockers from the same “collector.” Late last year they rescued 14 others from the same owner, and another group took five.

“We figure she had at least 66 and probably closer to 70,” DeCraene said. The family that had the dogs -- as is typical -- wouldn’t let rescuers onto their property or even tell them where it is.

The dogs rescued this month include 10 males and seven females. One is 11 years old, one is 12, and the rest are 6 to 8.

“Collectors are people who just like something,” DeCraene said. “Some collectors take care of their items or animals, and some don’t.”

The family that had these dogs socialized them and fed them. “But that was the end of it,” DeCraene said.

The dogs were missing patches of fur. Most had ear infections. All except four had dry eye -- a condition that eventually could lead to blindness -- caused by ammonia burns.

“These dogs sat in their own feces and urine for years and years and years,” DeCraene said.

A Wisconsin law that took effect in June 2011 requires licenses for breeders who sell more than 25 puppies a year or shelters that have more than 25 dogs in their possession.

But since the owners of the rescued cocker spaniels were neither selling dogs nor providing them for adoption, the new requirements didn’t apply to them.

“The law says people can give away as many as they want without having to be licensed,” DeCraene said. “But she had way too many.”

She said this case, from southwestern Wisconsin, is under investigation.

Cocker Spaniel Resources is one of three cocker spaniel rescue groups in Wisconsin; Minnesota has none. CSR is well-known among cocker owners, DeCraene said.

“(The dogs’ owner) reached out to Cocker Spaniel Resources to help her get rid of her dogs,” she said.

She said the most recent group was supposed to be delivered in February, but the owner’s husband was ill and died then.

“We said we would take all of them. We wanted to make sure they would all get out,” DeCraene said. “But they didn’t – that I know. I know she kept some back, but I don’t know how many.”

The CSR volunteers took the dogs directly to Lupine Kennels near Amery, where they will be treated, groomed and temperament-tested.

At the shelter all the dogs will be spayed or neutered, inoculated and given dental care. The cost for this basic veterinary care is about $400 each, DeCraene said.

The dogs with severe ear infections will need to have their ears ablated, or sealed, a surgical procedure that costs $1,500.

In some of the cockers, a row of eyelashes has turned under, scratching the cornea. The cost for surgery to repair that is about $1,800.

Once the animals are treated, they will be released to foster homes and later to permanent homes, said DeCraene, adding that CSR will pay half of the $40-a-month cost for life of eye medications needed by the dogs with dry eye.

“That’s how we make sure the dogs continue to get better,” she said.

DeCraene, who holds a master’s degree in education, taught for 32 years and has been involved with humane societies in one way or another since 1978. She founded CSR in 2006.

“I said, ‘You know what, I have nothing to do now that I’m retired,’ ” she recalled.

Since then CSR, which is licensed by Wisconsin to rescue dogs, has taken in well over 600 cocker spaniels and other breeds, said DeCraene: “For a shoestring budget, that is an extreme amount of dogs.”

Along with foster and permanent homes, CSR needs financial contributions and donations of dog food and other animal supplies.

“CSR is a small rescue in the grand scheme of rescues,” DeCraene said. “We do not make over $50,000 per year, so when collectors, hoarders or breeders release their dogs to CSR we are hard-pressed for money and supplies to get the dogs vetted, fed and groomed.”

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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