By Rick Pfeiffer
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — WHEATFIELD — The first thing animal rescuers noticed was the smell.
Then it was the sound of barking dogs and a heartbreaking scene in the basement and second floor of a home on Royal Parkway South in Lockport.
“The upstairs rooms had been converted into doggie nurseries. If you can imagine rooms full of small pens and then pens full of small dogs, that was what we saw,” said Andrew Bell, executive director of the SPCA of Niagara. “It’s was a scary sight.”
Rescuers recovered 64 pomeranians from the puppy mill on Monday morning. The mill was first exposed on Saturday night, when Niagara County Sheriff’s deputies and state police went to the address to investigate a “juvenile complaint.”
The owners of the home, Ellouise Magrum, 50, has been charged with a Lockport town ordinance violation of harboring animals. The home has also been condemned by town building inspectors.
Officials said more charges are pending.
Pomeranians from Magrum’s home were available on one website for $500 to $1,000 depending on the age and their color.
Bell says the action of seizing the dogs also should be seen as a warning — and a lesson.
“We can make the lives of these animals better and send a message that this (puppy mill) won’t be tolerated,” he said. “It’s also a lesson to the public. If you’re looking for a new dog, adopt, don’t buy. You don’t know where the dog (you’re buying) is coming from and (puppy mills) like this are more common than you think.”
The good news, according to the SPCA, is that most of the rescued dogs are in “pretty good health.”
“Five or six of them are pregnant,” SPCA Shelter Director Amy Lewis said. “They are not as bad as they could have been. I’ve seen a lot worse. They’re a little scruffy, but pretty healthy.”
Shelter officials had two veterinarians standing by to examine the dogs as they were brought in. In addition, shelter volunteers showed up to bathe and groom the dogs at the Lockport Road facility.
SPCA officials said the shelter was at about 75 percent capacity when they were alerted to the need for the rescue operation and volunteers worked all day Sunday to get things ready.
“We had to put together a lot of temporary housing and move things around to accomodate the dog crates,” Lewis said.
Lewis and Bell said they don’t anticipate the overcrowding to last too long. The SPCA is “seeking an immediate transfer of ownership from the current owner” and has already cut off a waiting list of folks who want to adopt the pomeranians.
“We’ve had 102 requests, and if all goes well we could begin with adoptions by Wednesday,” Bell said. “This whole day has been great. We’ve been overwhelmed with help and that is a testament to where we are today.”
Lewis also said a steady stream of folks showed up at the Lockort Road shelter Monday to drop off puppy food and puppy pads for the dogs to sleep on.
By late afternoon, the pups appeared to be having fun in their temporary new home.
“We’ve got a lot of barking going on,” Lewis said with a laugh. “They are very loud. I’m really happy we got the dogs when we did.”
Bell added he, too, was pleased that the shelter could respond so quickly to the needs of the animals.
“It’s uplifting,” he said, “because we can immediately see we’re making a difference for the animals.”POMERANIAN RESCUE • ADOPT: The SPCA of Niagara has a full waiting list is no longer accepting calls for adoptions • DONATE: If you'd like to help, in addition to the puppy chow and puppy pad donations, the shelter is also seeking monetary donations to help with the cost of the rescue. Donations may be made online at www.niagaraspca.org or may be mailed to PO Box 686, North Tonawanda, New York 14150.