STARR, S.C. - “Neighbors helping neighbors” is a phrase often used when referring to support the National Guard provides local communities. This has been proven numerous times in the aftermath of hurricanes, fires, ice storms and tornadoes. On Aug. 10, 2013, members of the S.C. National Guard and State Guard rallied to a different crisis in Anderson County after the discovery of more than 150 neglected puppies with potential exposure to canine parvovirus at a suspected puppy mill.
The discovery of the small dogs, some as old as 10 years and young as a few days, began after a local resident who purchased one of the puppies at a flea market learned the puppy had parvovirus and it had to be euthanized. The incident was brought to the attention of the Anderson County Sheriff’s office who launched an investigation, as parvovirus is highly contagious and deadly to other canines. What unfolded is being described as the largest rescue of dogs at a suspected mill type operation in recent memory in Anderson County. The small breeds were caged in a secluded area and living in deplorable conditions. They ranged in variety including Shih Tzus, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Pomeranians. More than 28 state agencies got involved to help the puppies, and included members of the 2-263rd Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Battalion, 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC), S.C. National Guard, the State Provost Marshal and the State Guard.
Anderson County officials determined the rescued puppies had to be isolated from other animals and that an abandoned animal shelter needed to reopen to care for the pups while their exposure to parvovirus was determined. Because the facility had no running water, the S.C. National Guard was contacted for assistance.
“We were called to help provide water for cleaning the facility and water for the animals to drink,” said Lt. Col. Marion Collins, commander, 2-263rd ADA Battalion.
The soldiers responded by delivering two full M-149 Water Buffaloes, which hold 400 gallons of water each. Because of the unique skills of members of the unit, they were able to repair the water line and get water running back to the facility.
“Anderson County goes out of their way to support our Guard members, so we want to give back. We’re proud to help,” said Collins.
More than 30 members of the State Guard provided assistance at the recovery site and at the make-shift shelter to assist in the arduous task of retrieving the puppies and assisting other volunteers to bathe and transport the animals.
“We were able to assemble teams within 30 minutes to assist Anderson County,” said State Guard Col. Michael Williams. “Our brigade is in the upstate and we were ready to help.”
According to Deputy Provost Marshal Lt. Col. Charles Campbell, their Provost Marshal office was providing members to work in eight-hour shifts to assist local law enforcement with security.
Anderson County Emergency Operations Center coordinated the efforts, which provided an opportunity for all agencies to exercise coordination and communications procedures, showcasing capabilities that would be used in a natural disaster and help area residents.
"We work together as a community under all situations and are grateful for the support from the agencies, volunteers and community who are helping,” said Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper. “One of the volunteers told me when this first started, they could see the sadness in the puppies, but now they are noticing these pups have hope in their eyes. That’s what’s it’s all about.”
Individuals wishing to help the dogs are asked to contact the Anderson County Animal Shelter.