Twenty-three puppies police say were rescued from a hot moving truck last month in Texarkana, Texas, are now in Chicago under the care of a rescue organization.
Staff members of Chicago French Bulldog Rescue picked up the dogs Wednesday in Texarkana and flew with them back to Illinois, where they will continue to receive veterinary care and then live in foster homes until their adoption.
The puppies allegedly began their journey July 10 in Kiev, Ukraine, according to a news release from the Humane Society of the United States. They flew in cargo aboard a Turkish Airlines flight to Chicago and were meant to proceed from there to Houston.
Officials at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, however, denied the puppies' owner entry for the purpose of importing live animals. The owner rented a Penske moving truck July 11 in Chicago, loaded the puppies in the back and began the drive to Houston.
Texas Department of Public Safety troopers conducted a traffic stop of the truck on July 12 at Liberty-Eylau Elementary School, according to Texarkana, Texas, Police Department. In the truck's cargo area they discovered 27 living French bulldog puppies and another that was dead.
The dogs were in plastic shipping crates, and no food or water was available, police said. Police measured the ambient temperature inside the cargo area at 121 degrees. Local animal control officers unloaded the remaining 27 puppies—all obviously sickened by the heat—and took them inside the school to cool them off.
The surviving dogs were taken to a local veterinary clinic for treatment. Four have since died from various illnesses "possibly caused or exacerbated by the compromised conditions in which they were discovered," the Humane Society said.
The drivers of the truck—Adam Darwish, 19, and Mahmoud Eid, 18—were charged with 28 counts of animal cruelty and booked into the Bi-State Justice Building jail. Bail was set at $2,500 on each of the 28 misdemeanor counts, for a total bond of $70,000 for each defendant. Both defendants have been released on bond.
Local officials requested the Humane Society's assistance, and the society in turn asked for help from Chicago French Bulldog Rescue. In a civil forfeiture hearing July 26, a court divested ownership of the dogs and ordered they be awarded to the rescue group. That order went into effect Monday because the defendants did not appeal it.
The dogs will be quarantined for a time to ensure they are healthy, with no contagious diseases, before they are released to caregivers.
"We will be sending them directly from that airplane to our vets, and they will be isolated until we can figure out what's wrong with them," said Janie Jenkins with the Chicago rescue group.
French bulldogs are a popular breed, and puppies can sell for thousands of dollars each, Jenkins said. Caring for the breed can be demanding, so abandoned French bulldogs are becoming more common.
"Frenchies are adorable. People fall in love with them. They're cute little personalities, cute little faces. They make funny noises. All sorts of Instagram and Facebook pages about French bulldogs. But they have a lot of issues. They have back issues, and they have allergies. Some of them can be very prey-driven.
"So they're not for everybody, but they're so cute, everyone wants one. They buy them in a pet store or online, and they don't know what they're getting into. We've picked up dogs that are strays, some that have been turned in to shelters. They're coming into our rescue by all sorts of different avenues now that they're so popular. It's upsetting, really upsetting," Jenkins said.
The Humane Society praised the officers who saved most of the puppies' lives and added advice for prospective dog owners.
"Without the swift intervention of local law enforcement, it is likely many more of these puppies would have succumbed to heat stroke and died during the remaining 300-mile journey to Houston in the sweltering heat of that cargo van," Humane Society Regional Director Katie Jarl said.
"Sadly, puppies sold at local pet stores and flea markets across Texas endure similar mistreatment, and we encourage anyone looking for a pet to visit their local shelter or rescue."
On Twitter: @RealKarlRichter