Pecan, a Yorkie-Chihuahua puppy with floppy black ears, was chubby and soft when Peppermint Pig Animal Rescue sent him to what its workers hoped would be his forever home. He was skin stretched over bones when his owner abandoned him in a cage outside the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Sharonville, Ohio.
That owner, 39-year-old Arlene McKinnon, was arrested and charged with cruelty to a companion animal.
The experience, which Peppermint Pig described in a Facebook post as "any rescuer's nightmare," spurred the organization to re-evaluate the way it sized up potential adopters.
"We have been doing this successfully for 13 years and never had ANYTHING like this happen, but the sad truth is, this could have happened to any dog, or any rescue," the post reads in part. "We are completely devastated that this happened to our sweet boy."
Pecan and his siblings were close to death when volunteers at the shelter initially took them in. The puppies were having trouble eating solid food, and their mother's milk had dried up.
"They wouldn't have survived if we didn't step in," said Sarah Mickles, rescue and adoption coordinator for Peppermint Pig. "After all was said and done, we managed to help them become healthy little puppies until they were ready for adoption."
For weeks, workers at the shelter nursed the puppies back to health and began the process of finding their forever homes. Most puppies went to loving, caring homes.
Pecan's adopted owner admitted to leaving him in his cage most of the day. When she eventually dropped him off at the SPCA, he was malnourished and dying.
"Our hearts are broken for him. When the volunteers at Peppermint Pig found out what happened, they were devastated," said Mickles. "Now, they're looking at their own adoption policies to be sure something like this never happens again."
Peppermint Pig already has strict adoption policies, but Pecan's plight has made them decide to tighten up even further. They're now requiring a more detailed veterinary history and background check for applicants, asking new questions and checking with even more personal references.
"I've updated some of them already so they're already in effect," said Mickles. "We're really hopeful that it'll help. Obviously this could've happened to any dog, anywhere at any rescue or shelter."
Pecan is recovering in 24-hour foster care at a shelter near the Sharonville SPCA, but after McKinnon's case is settled, he will return home to Peppermint Pig.