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Animal Defenders of Westchester
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Fire kills 70 greyhounds

From the Post Gazette :

Greyhound rescue group takes 16 dogs before kennel fire 16 dogs taken from W.Va. kennel hours before fire killed 70

Tuesday, October 18, 2005
By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette

Jeanne Megrey, foster coordinator of Going Home Greyhounds, hugs Endless Night, a greyhound taken by the group at the last minute Sunday morning because ZEZ Kennels in Brooke County, W.Va., was out of her medication.

Click photo for larger image.

Firefighters were unable to save more than 70 racing greyhounds when flames and smoke engulfed a trailer at ZEZ Kennels Inc. in Brooke County, W.Va., Sunday night. But a group of Pittsburgh area volunteers had "rescued" 16 greyhounds about 12 hours before the fire started.

"Firefighters said the dogs were silent" when they arrived on the scene at about 9:45 p.m. "The dogs didn't have a chance," said Brooke County Sheriff Rich Ferguson. Three volunteer companies extinguished the fire in a converted trailer filled with cages in about an hour, but all of the dogs inside died

Brooke County deputies are investigating the cause of the fire and have called in the state fire marshal and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Deputies were checking the identification tattoos in the ears of the dead racing dogs yesterday in an effort to trace the owners.

Volunteers from Going Home Greyhounds had loaded 16 dogs whose racing careers were over into five cars Sunday morning and driven them to the Tender Touch Veterinary Hospital in Pine, where they were checked by veterinarian Kelly Hopper. All will be neutered and inoculated and will spend at least three weeks in the homes of volunteers before becoming available to be adopted as pets.

"Rescue" is the term that Going Home Greyhounds and similar nonprofit groups use to describe their mission. They rescue greyhounds that are too old or too slow to race and find them new homes as pets of families and individuals.

In the past year, Going Home Greyhounds has found new homes for 200 racing dogs retired from ZEZ Kennels. In the past 10 years, the group has rescued more than 1,000 greyhounds from various tracks and kennels.

"We only had foster homes for 12 dogs, but we made room for three more," said Jeanne Megrey, one of the volunteers.

"At the last minute, the kennel manager asked if we could [also] take a 5-year-old black dog who had an ear ailment. They were out of her medication."

Volunteer Elaine Pensenstadler said she would take that dog, named Endless Night, to her Ambridge home.

The Sunday night fire apparently started near a propane furnace, Sheriff Ferguson said. The fire did not spread to a nearby kennel building, which was made from concrete blocks, and more than 70 dogs in that building were fine.

ZEZ owner Edward Zeroski, who trains dogs owned by people who live all over the country, was not at the kennel Sunday night, and law enforcement officials were not able to talk to him yesterday afternoon. Reportedly, he had been working at a racing kennel in Florida and was traveling back to West Virginia.

The kennel is on Girty's Point Road in Brooke County, north of Wheeling Island Racetrack & Gaming Center.

Sheriff Ferguson said federal officials were called in because the damage estimate for the fire is expected to be high and dogs had died at Mr. Zeroski's kennel several years ago.

On July 27, 2000, more than 50 dogs died when an air conditioning unit malfunctioned.

"Basically they died of heat exhaustion," said attorney Anthony I. Werner of Wheeling, W.Va. He represented a Kansas couple who owned 14 of the dogs that died. The couple sued ZEZ, the Wheeling racetrack and Burlington Insurance Co., and were awarded $1 million by an Ohio County, W.Va., jury.

(Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at [email protected] or 412-263-3064.)

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