WESTERLY — Four puppies left in a box that was abandoned at Craig Field last week are expected to make a full recovery, thanks in part to an early response after police were alerted by a citizen who heard them whining.

Officials called the incident "infuriating" and said there are no excuses for leaving animals homeless or in danger when there are options available simply by contacting the Westerly Animal Shelter.

"What bothers me the most is that at the shelter, we take in or provide help for animals all the time, and usually with no questions asked," said Westerly Animal Control Officer Art Smith, who also serves as the manager at the town's animal shelter. "There is never a reason to leave puppies or kittens like that."

Smith and Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said the puppies, all newborns whose eyes were still shut, were discovered during the afternoon hours on June 12, left for dead in a box that was placed by a dumpster at the Craig Field Recreation Complex off Mountain Avenue. The caller, a local woman, contacted the department as soon as she discovered them and turned the dogs over to Smith that same day.

The dogs are of mixed breed, Smith said Tuesday, and are too young yet to determine what the dominant breed may be.

After being rescued, the dogs were taken to the VCA Turco Animal Hospital, where they were evaluated with the assistance of Dr. Kathy Moore. Smith said the dogs were too young to be taken in at the animal shelter just yet, so veterinary technician Coty Spears stepped up and has taken on the role of voluntarily fostering the dogs.

Foster care involves feeding the puppies every three hours, assisting them as they learn to move and with other regular tasks and allowing them to grow and develop in a safe atmosphere. Smith said the work "is like taking care of a newborn baby in many ways."

"I can't credit Dr. Moore, Coty and the staff at VCA Turco enough. Whenever we have emergent needs involving animals, these guys go out of their way to make sure those needs are met," he said.

All four dogs are happy and healthy, Smith said, and will eventually be returned to the shelter. From there, Smith said the goal will be to find adoptive owners to provide them with a suitable home.

Both Smith and Lacey said they are continuing to investigate and will pursue charges if the person who left the puppies is identified, but as of Tuesday there were few leads. Those with information are asked to contact Smith directly at 860-348-2558 or the Westerly Police Department dispatch center at 401-596-2022.

Smith said those who are struggling to make ends meet, dealing with a pregnancy of a dog or cat, or who are just in over their heads should also reach out for help. He said no matter the problem, the shelter and Westerly Animal Control have resources and connections to help those in need.

"There are tons of options besides leaving an animal to die," Smith said. "If there's one message I hope people take from this, it's that there is never a good reason to leave an animal behind. Please, if you need help, just reach out."

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