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Photo contributed by Janice Williams and Kaitlyn Hankins / Dogs that were rescued from an owner in Walker County on their way to an animal rescue in Maine.

An animal welfare group based in Maine traveled to Walker County, Georgia, and took possession of nine dogs this month after a local organization was turned away for help by county animal shelter officials who cited limitations under the coronavirus crisis.

Janice Williams is the director for Perry's Promise, a nonprofit organization in Walker County that specializes in animal rescue work.

She received several messages and calls around April 6 about dogs barking and wailing from a yard on Hamilton Drive in Chickamauga. Williams also heard the dogs might need food.

"As part of Perry's Promise, we provide pet food to people who can't afford it," Williams said. "I went over there because I heard he wasn't feeding them and offered him food."

Williams said the dog owner refused the food but allowed Williams to check on the dogs, because she also heard one of the smaller dogs was injured. The owner had a mix of breeds from hounds and mutts to shepherds and at least one golden retriever.

Williams said she and the owner checked on the dogs and saw one of the larger dogs had killed one of the puppies who was about four or five months old, Williams said.

She said the owner told her to take six large dogs because he didn't want them anymore and gave her permission to start looking for a place to take the dogs.

Williams said she dealt with the situation over seven hours. At first she tried to contact the Walker County Animal Shelter but had no luck. Williams got in touch with David Brown, the code enforcement officer in Walker County, who visited the home, but arrangements with the animal shelter were not successful.

Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said that because of the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus, animal control was short staffed and only able to accept calls if there was a dog bite involved.

Williams started to look for a rescue that could handle such a large intake.

She eventually found The Grateful Dog Animal Rescue. Ten days later, Kaitlyn Hankins — director of the rescue — drove down from Maine on April 16 to help with the dogs.

Hankins said that, based on the condition of the dogs, she was shocked that local officials in Walker County left them as they were without intervening.

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Photo contributed by Janice Williams and Kaitlyn Hankins / Dogs that were rescued from an owner in Walker County on their way to an animal rescue in Maine.

Williams contacted Walker County Animal Control when Hankins visited and helped the difficult process of getting a total of nine dogs into a van for transportation. Hankins said because the dogs were not used to social interaction, it made getting them into cages a long process.

Whitfield was present during some of the rescue and transportation after Williams had called his office and animal control several times, Williams said.

Hankins was able to rescue nine dogs, including three puppies. Three of the dogs were pregnant when Hankins rescued them and one had 10 puppies on the way up north.

"I'm so glad that dog didn't have those puppies while she was there," Hankins said. "It was an extremely dire situation."

Hankins said all the dogs she and Williams helped rescue have already found a foster home and are on the road to recovery.

Whitfield said as Walker County gets its government back up to speed his staff will be reaching out to the dog owner about getting the other dogs he kept neutered and possibly transferred.

The man was not cited or charged with any crimes, Whitfield said.

"Everyone's level of treatment and care for animals varies," Whitfield said. "Some people keep their animals in the back yard, some keep them on a chain, some people have their animals sleep in the bed with them."

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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