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'It's just shocking and really sad': 160 pets saved from homeless encampment near Surprise

A local animal sanctuary was asked for help by one of the people living at the camp.

PHOENIX — A Valley-based animal rescue group says they helped save more than 150 cats and dogs from a homeless camp.

Elli Smith, the Founder of Sky Sanctuary Rescue, says they found the homeless camp just outside of Surprise. They found four people hoarding about 160 pets. 

"It's just shocking and really sad," Smith says. "I mean, I went back to the van and cried." She said last week, one of the people living there reached out to her for help through social media. She says the man sent her a video of him huddled underneath one of the tents with several dogs during a storm.

Caitlin Beall, the director of the sanctuary, describes the video, "He was in during that monsoon with 160 animals with only a tarp to cuddle with them," she recalls. "Truly, it was heartbreaking." 

Soon, Beall and Smith drove out to the camp. The video they took shows the massive encampment. Trash and tents littered everywhere. Inside those tents were the animals.

"This is so much worse than we had expected," Beall says.

We’ve never experienced anything like that. Standing in the middle of the desert in 110 degrees with over a hundred...

Posted by Sky Sanctuary Rescue on Wednesday, August 17, 2022

In triple-digit heat, both the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office started taking each animal. It took two full days.

Smith says they were able to take 56 back to their sanctuary, where they immediately started treating them for injuries. "Two-day-old puppies all the way to 17-year-old dogs," Smith says.

Fortunately, Smith says none of them had to be put down. She was also surprised to learn none of them were malnourished, but there were some serious issues. 

Smith says, "We have one that is going to have to get its eye nucleated." Since all the animals were out in the desert, Smith says each has to be tested for Valley Fever which she says can cost anywhere between $200 to $300.

The founder says the four people at the camp truly cared about their pets but wish it didn't have to get to this point. "Don't be afraid to ask for help," Smith says. "Don't let it get to a crisis point."

Many of the dogs that were rescued are now available for adoption.

If you wish to donate to Sky Sanctuary Rescue or want to adopt, click here.

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