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Breeder surrenders 131 dogs to the Iowa City Animal Shelter

The Iowa City Animal Shelter took in 131 dogs from a breeder holding them in neglectful conditions on Aug. 24. Here’s what has happened since and what the shelter needs from the community.
Eleanor Weitz
Shelter volunteer Donna Gentry poses with one of the rescued dogs named Patsy.

One hundred thirty-one dogs, many of them pregnant or with puppies, were taken in at the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center three weeks ago. The dogs were being held at a farm in unhealthy conditions. Many of them were matted and overheated from being kept in a field with no protection from the sun. Many of the dogs had dental issues and later, an outbreak of parvovirus broke out among many of the unvaccinated puppies. This crisis was an intense ordeal for the staff of the shelter, but the volunteers and community rose up to support them in their time of need. 

“There were puppies being born on just a concrete floor with dead flies everywhere,” Darlene Postacchini Olshanky, a very dedicated and knowledgeable volunteer said. The conditions were dire, but the mass effort from multiple organizations, staff and volunteers allowed all the dogs to be relocated quickly. 

Donna Gentry is a volunteer at the shelter who stepped up in caring for the rescued dogs. She personally brought one of the surrendered Burmese Mountain Dogs named Bogart to get his matted coat taken care of. Many of the breeds rescued require intense grooming care that had been severely neglected, Bogart is one of those. Hawk-Dog Grooming charitably shaved all the matted hair free of charge to the delight of Gentry and the rest of the shelter staff. 

Maya Mueller ’26 pets freshly groomed Burmese Mountain Dog Bogart. (Eleanor Weitz)

Most of the dogs rescued were incredibly timid and scared. They lived with very little human interaction or care and none of it had been positive. Though all the dogs kept by the shelter will eventually be adopted, it has been a long, hard road. It’s taken a lot of patience and effort to get the dogs to where they are now, and it will take even more throughout the rest of their lives. 

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“I think some of the adults will never be like normal dogs. I mean playing with toys and just relaxing like the dog should. There are always some of them that might have that guard up forever,” Postacchini Olshansky said. 

When the shelter reached out for help in retrieving the dogs, volunteers immediately answered the call and got all the dogs off the property. The shelter set up a second location to hold a majority of the rescued dogs. Volunteers aided in cleaning the space, transporting the dogs, and organizing the many donations they received. When the shelter made a post notifying the public of the situation and asking for donations, the community exceeded their expectations. 

“We ended up having to rent a storage pod to store the overflow of food, blankets, and cleaning supplies. It was truly heartwarming to see the community come together to help us out,” Volunteer Coordinator Amiah DeWolf said. The halls of the shelter were overflowing with bags of dog food, dog toys and other supplies. Even businesses including Theison’s and Aero Rental donated their supplies to aid the rescued dogs. 

Piles of dog food and other supplies were donated for the rescued dogs. (Allison Crawford)

“The response was unbelievable,” longtime volunteer Allison Crawford said after a long afternoon transporting donations for the dogs. 

“The community pulled together for these dogs like I haven’t seen since the flood of 2008,” Postacchini Olshansky said. The response from the community was so overwhelming and supportive that many of the volunteers interviewed got emotional just speaking about it.  

The Bissell Pet Foundation graciously offered their assistance by distributing a majority of the dogs to shelters across Wisconsin and Michigan where they are guaranteed to be properly cared for. The shelter currently only has about 15 of the dogs left, and there are 50-plus applications coming in for them already. 

This rescued dog named Ava has been adopted and is on her way to her forever home. (Eleanor Weitz)

The best action to take in order to help the shelter right now would be to adopt any of the animals left at the shelter. There are many cats, rabbits, and other dogs that are currently adoptable and deserve a loving home. 

“The best thing of all would be to adopt! We have dogs and cats that have been at the shelter for lots longer than these other dogs, and we want to make sure they also find good homes,” DeWolf said.

This story was originally published on West Side Story on September 19, 2023.