Dogster Hero: The Vet Who Helped Dozens of Dogs Out of a Hoarding Situation

Under Dr. Grace Anne Mengel's lead, veterinary students at Penn Vet stepped in to give the rescued pups a full checkup.


Grace Anne Mengel, Penn Vet staff veterinarian, received an urgent phone call in late July. In a hoarding-like situation, a breeder in Louisiana was found to be housing nearly 150 Magnolia Brittany Spaniels.

Sue Spaid, president of the National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network, had made arrangements with local police to have the dogs removed from the horrible conditions. The dogs were then sent to a holding facility, where a team from Louisiana State University’s veterinary school triaged them and administered rabies and DA2PP vaccines.

Following the first stages of treatment, Spaid alerted the Brittany Rescue Network and arranged for professional transport of the dogs. They were sent to rescue chapters around the country to receive shelter and further treatment while awaiting adoption. Twenty-six of the Brittanys were sent to the Country Comfort Kennels in Delta, PA, about two hours from Philadelphia.

Dr. Mengel runs Penn Vet’s Primary Care Service, which gives fourth-year students hands-on preparation for clinical practice. Upon hearing that the Rescue Network needed a physical and behavioral assessment of the dogs, she recognized a unique learning opportunity for her students, and quickly organized a trip to Delta. Seven Primary Care students, as well as Dr. Shannon Kerrigan and Dr. Carlo Siracusa, head of Ryan Hospital’s behavior service, accompanied Dr. Mengel on the visit.

Given the dire conditions in which the dogs had been living, Dr. Mengel and the team were pleasantly surprised by the dogs’ amazing temperaments. “They are a great bunch of dogs who came from a very bad situation and managed to adjust quite well in their new environment,” Mengel said.

Unfortunately, 18 of the 26 dogs tested positive for heartworm. The eight heartworm-negative dogs were brought to Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital for testing and neutering. The following week, the heartworm-positive dogs were brought for chest radiographs for heartworm disease staging. All of the dogs were put on a 90-day heartworm treatment protocol. One of the dogs had such an advanced case that it required surgery.

Not only was this a valuable clinical experience for the students, but it was also a wonderful example of collaboration at Penn Vet. “Lots of people from many services and areas of the hospital stepped up to help treat the Brittanys,” said Dr. Mengel. “The nursing staff, interns, and residents were quick to pitch in. Surgery, pathology, and cardiology all came together to help us with this project.”

Today, the heartworm-positive dogs are continuing their treatment protocol and are still being housed at the Country Comfort Kennels in Delta. Once their heartworm disease is treated and they are neutered/spayed, they will be adopted out to their forever homes. The few dogs that were heartworm-negative are either in foster homes or have been adopted.

Source: Penn Vet, republished with permission.

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