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The Humane Society of Calvert County welcomed 49 new furry — and feathered — friends at its shelter this week after 132 dogs and four birds were rescued from a Virginia puppy mill last week.

The shelter has helped with puppy mill rescues before, but this time the Humane Society is taking in three times more dogs than it has for any other rescue operation in the past, said Kirstyn Northrop Cobb, spokesperson for HSCC.

In cooperation with the national organization Animal Rescue Corps and the Page County Sheriff’s Office, dozens of dogs were rescued from neglectful conditions at a breeding facility in a home in Page County, Va., during Operation Liberty Dogs. Adult dogs as well as newborn litters of puppies were found crowded into small crates and pens in conditions deemed deplorable by the Virginia State Veterinarian, according to a press release from the Animal Rescue Corps.

Typically, the Humane Society of Calvert County is only able to house 30 dogs, but all of this week’s rescues are smaller breeds so the dogs can share spaces larger breeds typically taken in by the shelter cannot. The largest dog the shelter is taking in from Operation Liberty Dogs is a 45-pound English bulldog.

Most puppy mills breed smaller dogs because they take up less space, Northrop Cobb said. In all of the puppy mill operations the Humane Society of Calvert County has assisted with, the shelter has only ever taken in two dogs of larger breeds, although the typical population of the shelter from local dogs consists of larger breeds.

Some dogs will be sent to foster homes, especially the several pregnant dogs taken in by the shelter. Others who can’t be put in the shelter’s existing space will stay in donated crates, Northrop Cobb said.

“First, we were panicked, but we’re going to make it work,” Northrop Cobb said.

Some of the animals will be available for adoption as early as this week. Breeds include chihuahua, English bulldog, Yorkshire terrier, French bulldog, Schnauzer, poodle and miniature pinscher, Northrop Cobb said. Additionally, there are three Amazon parrots and a cockatiel.

Adopting a rescue dog always presents challenges, Northop Cobb said, and adopting one from this rescue could be a bit more difficult because of the conditions in which the dogs lived. The Humane Society always offers free follow-up training for adopted dogs, she said.

“They’ve never known a loving touch, so this is all new to them,” Northop Cobb said.

The case began when the operators of the puppy mill sent several dogs to a rescue organization. When workers saw the condition of the dogs, they contacted local law enforcement, who then contacted the ARC, said Michael Cunningham, spokesman for the ARC.

The ARC didn’t know what to expect as far as how many animals needed help and what kinds of dogs were in the facility.

“We didn’t know what to expect on this rescue,” Cunningham said. “… It was immediately obvious we had to act as quickly as possible.”

In cooperation with local law enforcement, about 30 people, including Northop Cobb, helped with Operation Liberty Dogs.

“It was honestly just disgusting,” Northrop Cobb said. “They’re not how we would treat our house pets.”

The dogs not taken in by the Humane Society of Calvert County will be sent to other shelters in the Eastern U.S., Cunningham said.

To handle the increased population, the Humane Society of Calvert County is seeking volunteers, donations of food, cleaning supplies, collars for small dogs and monetary donations for veterinary care. To help, contact the shelter at 410-257-4908.

sfleischman@somdnews.com