Toward the end of May, PAWS (Providing Animals With Shelter) volunteer Mary Meier was made aware of the hoarding situation near Berea. The owner of the dogs, Herman Ackerman, put a message on social media saying that he was in desperate need of finding homes for his 32 dogs. To date, over half of the dogs have been placed in rescues or fosters.

After seeing Ackerman’s post on May 24, concerned citizens began to call and message Meier, but she was on her way home from work, so she was unable to answer. She got home and saw the plea for help, her first thought was, “I had no intention of taking on a project of this size,” but that thought was quickly taken over by “how can I help?”

“I got into contact with him and let him know that I would do what I could to help, and he said that he needed to find a safer place for the dogs. I started making some phone calls and reaching out to the connections that I have with past rescues that I have worked with,” said Meier.

She then reached out to PAWS founder Dede DeVeny to see if PAWS could help with funding. Without hesitation DeVeny said of course.

“We've paid $1,600 for these dogs to start the process. PAWS’ mission is to help needy animals in the most humane way possible,” said DeVeny.

The start up funds from PAWS combined with a donation from CARE out of Colorado were enough to arrange for Dr. Regina Rankin from Companion Animal Clinic in Crawford to assess the dogs on site.

“You just can’t contact 18 rescues and say that you have 32 dogs do you want them? The first thing they will ask is if they are vaccinated, dewormed, heartworm negative, and if they have been checked by a vet for their general health. So because of PAWS’ initial funds that let us get started we are now able to answer those questions. Which opened up seven rescues for us and we have been able to move them out quickly,” said Meier.

On the Ackerman property there were two large pens with 17 dogs in them between the two and then another 15 dogs running loose.

“We started with the free roaming pack because they were the ones giving the neighborhood problems. We took them completely off of the property and the ones remaining are penned up,” said Meier.

Of the free roaming pack there were four adult females and the rest were believed to be juveniles, meaning that they were five to 12 months old.

“Those have all been taken into foster or are in rescues. They all have adjusted really well,” she said. “Three of those pups have been accepted into the Second Chance Pup Program. Which is a program where they go into the Lincoln Correctional Facility and they get trained by their inmate to get them prepared for adoption. They get obedience training and learn new tricks and agility.”

As Meier put it, this was a “self-created problem.” When pet owners do not spay or neuter their animals, the problem can escalate quickly. It’s a nationwide problem that leads to the euthanization of approximately 1.2 million dogs each year.

“I don’t know how long this problem has been going on, but this was the first that I had heard of it. I’m trying to just keep ticking away at it, but it’s a process, and that takes time and money. I’ve raised the money for all of their care and expenses to get to the rescues if needed. I don’t know anybody that does this for free. This has all been volunteer hours on my part and I’ve had a couple of my volunteers that have came out to help me,” said Meier.

The dogs left are currently content in their pens and “seem to be less stressed right now because the pack has been thinned out, and they aren’t as crowded.”

“Going into this I thought the dogs were going to be diseased and emaciated, but they were in good shape. The dogs have all been friendly and manageable dogs to handle. Mind you, they are very skittish, but they have had very limited human contact and not much leash work. I’ve been in the pens with them and there’s been a lot of barking but they were all easy to handle,” said Meier.

More and more dogs are being taken out each week.

“It’s a good start. Herman wants to have the dogs all placed. He has been very cooperative and very helpful through every step of the way.”

She said, “I’m trying to keep in mind the safety of the neighboring community so the dogs aren’t getting out. Also coming from an animal perspective, I’m looking out for the welfare of the animals. The majority of them were very healthy. There weren’t any that needed to be put down, the only worries were that a couple of them were thin, but when you live a hard life like that, who doesn’t get a little bit thin.”

DeVeny said, “I commend my donors, the volunteers and Mary. Nobody has a clue about the amount of goodwill that PAWS does for the animals everyday.”

“I hope that our efforts have made the neighbors feel a little safer that the dogs aren’t running loose and getting into their yards,” said Meier. “This has been an accidental rescue role that I have taken on. I’m not a rescue but I’m happy to help him and I’m happy to help the dogs, I think they are worth saving. I just would like to see a positive outcome for all of the dogs. Think about the dogs that have been rescued so far. They have gone from living near a barrel of a gun to having their lives changed. So for me this has been a personal success.”

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