When a suspected dog fighting operation was busted in Cheatham County, 60 of the recovered dogs were sent to Lebanon where New Leash on Life immediately went into action to find a place to hold and help them.
It took a lot of people, supplies and goodwill to give the dogs a chance. All three were found in Lebanon.
New Leash on Life played host to a reception Wednesday at the Cumberland Valley Shows warehouse for Animal Rescue Corps, the animal welfare group that organized the rescue mission called Operation Broken Chain
"It was horrible," said NLOL Director Amy Haverstick, who was present at the rescue herself and who was instrumental in finding a place to put the dogs. She introduced ARC President Scotlund Haisley.
Haisley had high praise for NLOL and the help the group provided when the situation was discovered.
"I've been doing rescues for 15 to 20 years and this was, by far, one of the worse ones I've seen," he said. "Usually dog fighters try to keep their dogs healthy because it means more money for them. But these dogs were emaciated, had no water and very little shelter. It was a bad place."
Haisley said the people responsible for the dogs' condition have not yet been prosecuted, but ARC has turned over evidence discovered at the scene to authorities.
Among the pit bulls discovered on the site were beagle dogs, dogs known to be generally good natured. Haisley believes they were there for a reason.
"It's just speculation on my part, but I believe they were bait dogs - dogs used to get a bloodbath started," he said.
Haisley said he is in Tennessee "all the time" not because the state has the worse cases of animal abuse, but because ARC has built strong partnerships with organizations like NLOL. He said people and Tennessee have always stepped up to help "except for the monkey rescue," which got a laugh from the crowd.
"This is not called the Volunteer State for nothing," he said, motioning his hand to the stacks of dogs food and supplies that have been pouring in from around the area since the dogs were brought to Lebanon and the word went out that help was needed.
He recounted how he went from working at a conventional shelter, to creating a more humane shelter, to finally forming ARC to take on the worse cases of mass animal abuse in North American through a network of shelters, volunteers and animal lovers.
As for the dogs currently being shelter in Lebanon, Haisley said they have a long road ahead of them.
"They were starved, scared and freezing cold," he said. "These dogs were conditioned and trained to fight, they can't go to the dog park. We will just try to rehabilitate them."
He said ARC is in it for the long haul.
"It doesn't end the day we cut them off the chain," he said. "It ends the day they are the dog they were supposed to be."
As for Haisley, traveling around at a moment's notice and spending 70 percent of his time "on the road" keeps him a busy man. He said he himself has three dogs, a cat, three kids and an understanding wife.
To find out more about the Animal Rescue Corps, or to volunteer or contribute, visit their website at animalrescuecorps.org.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.