When Diana Locke adopted Tulip, a 1-year-old Papillon, the dog was missing a toe, a leg and half her tail.

“She’s kind of three-quarters of a dog,” said Locke, who owns Paws Applause, a pet supply store and grooming salon in Scarborough.

Tulip was one of some 250 dogs seized in August by the state from a Buxton kennel. According to Susan Britt, director of operations at the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook, which took a lead role in helping care for the dogs, less than 20 remain who are looking for permanent homes.

Despite physical and behavioral problems the dogs have as a result of their treatment in the puppy mill, their looks and their personalities have helped them quickly win places in the homes of many residents in southern Maine.

“I knew once people saw these wonderful dogs, they would be lining up,” Britt said Monday.

Locke, for one, wasn’t even in the market for a new dog, but after meeting Tulip through one of her customers, who had Tulip in foster care, she had to have the puppy for herself.

“I just fell in love with her,” Locke said.

Before finding their permanent homes, the dogs were housed at Happy Tails, a boarding facility in Portland, at the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk, the Animal Refuge League and in foster homes. They were moved to those locations after being cared for at the Buxton kennel, where many were diagnosed with sarcoptic mange with giardia.

The seizure of the dogs and puppies by Buxton police and state animal welfare workers was labeled the state’s largest ever. According to Norma Worley, director of the state’s Animal Welfare program, the seizure and subsequent care of the animals will end up costing the state at least $350,000.

Heidi and John Frasca, owners of J’aime Kennel, were issued 14 summonses for an unlicensed kennel, two summonses for animal cruelty and one summons for failing to provide necessary medical treatment to animals. They denied all charges.

In September, a judge at Biddeford District Court awarded permanent custody of 249 dogs and puppies to the state, but the Frascas appealed the decision. They failed, however, to post $867,740 security to make the appeal go forward.

On Oct. 31, the Frascas filed a $900 million suit in U.S. District Court, naming a long list of Buxton and state officials and animal welfare workers. The Frascas claimed the seizure of their dogs violated their constitutional rights. They also asked for the return of all property confiscated from them and punitive damages to be determined in a trial. No court date has been set.

In charges stemming from the raid, John Frasca faced arraignment on 25 counts of cruelty to animals, according to a court clerk. When he didn’t show up for the hearing in November, a judge ordered a warrant for his arrest.

York County District Attorney Mark Lawrence said last week that Frasca hadn’t been arrested, and the warrant was still in effect. Earlier this winter, Buxton police believed Frasca was in New Hampshire.

Despite the unsettled legal matters, the adoption procedure was allowed to move forward, and the dogs are beginning to adjust to their new homes. Both shelters provided adopters with information about how to help the dogs adapt. On Wednesday, the Animal Welfare Society began offering obedience classes specifically for the dogs that came from the Buxton mill. They will be held on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. through Feb 27.

For the first time, the state is implanting microchips under the skin of each dog, identifying it as coming from the Buxton seizure. The device stores information that can be scanned, if, following adoption, a dog were to be picked up after being lost.

As for any dog adopted from the shelter, a counselor from the Animal Refuge League conducted verbal screenings of the applicants and checked to see if the applicants had a history of allowing stray dogs. In addition, the shelter required a 24-hour “cooling-off” period between when the applicants met their new dogs and when the adoption process began in order for them to fully consider the responsibility of taking on a dog from a puppy mill.

The Animal Refuge League is scheduled to follow up with each adopter three days, three weeks, three months and one year after the adoption is complete.

The applicant also is required to sign a contract agreeing to care for the dog. If a dog can’t be kept, it must be surrendered to the Animal Refuge League.

Like many of the dogs that came from the Buxton kennel, Tulip’s issues don’t end with her physical deformations. She has many emotional problems, as well.

Tulip was originally put in a foster home because she was spinning in circles at the temporary kennel, and she still can’t stand being put in a crate. She’s chewed through her collar, leash and tags. She isn’t housebroken, and, according to Locke, she has separation anxiety, which has made her the new resident canine at Locke’s Oak Hill shop.

Though Locke has already seen Tulip improve – she urinated outside for the first time last week – she knows her problems won’t be completely resolved any time soon.

“I think she’s always going to have issues,” she said.

Though some of Tulip’s problems are a result of how she was treated in the kennel, others are simply genetic flaws.

Large for her breed, Tulip will need to have two surgeries to fix her bad knees, Locke said, which is why she thinks of her as a “spokesdog” against puppy mills.

“You only breed the dog to better the breed,” Locke said. “People are paying thousands and thousands of dollars, and they’re getting Tulip’s offspring, which is pretty sad.”

Also, because Tulip was bred when she was under a year old, her whole skeleton is weak, which is why she had to have her leg amputated when she broke it jumping off of a couch, Locke said.

According to Britt, skin problems and extreme shyness are among some of the more common problems the dogs are having.

Amy Carlson of Cape Elizabeth said her adopted miniature Australian shepherd, 6-month-old Spur, is itching and scratching incessantly. And unfamiliar noises, like the television, she said, still send him sprinting away.

Already caring for several dogs, cats and horses, Carlson, like Locke, had no intention of adding another animal to her home. However, Carlson, a veterinary technician who helped care for the puppies when the kennel was seized, couldn’t resist keeping one for herself.

“It’s hard not to get attached,” she said. “There were a lot of them I wanted to take home.”

Carlson said Spur stood out to her because he had a fun personality and was the smallest puppy in the kennel.

Britt said dogs as old as 12 years were recovered from the kennel. Though she said many of them have several years left to enjoy in the comfort of their new homes, they’ll never be quite normal.

“Many will make amazing progress,” Britt said, “but for some, the world will always be a little bit scary.”

Carlson, however, has high hopes for Spur. He’s already enrolled in obedience and agility classes, and she hopes in a couple of years, he will be able to compete against other dogs. Because he was so young when he was rescued from the kennel, Carlson thinks Spur is on track for a full recovery.

“He was a lucky one,” she said. “I think he got out in time.”

Puppy love


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