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Eight puppies and their mother were found abandoned on a country road in Quebec on Dec. 22, 2010. ((Geneviève Sabourin))

The Society for the Protection of Animals in Granby, Que., wants to find out who abused a family of dogs, leaving them to die in a ditch on a country road over the holidays.

A black Labrador retriever and eight of her puppies were found freezing and malnourished on Chemin Stagecoach west of Brome, in Quebec's Eastern Townships, on Dec. 22.

Three of the animals, including the mother, had been shot in the head with a nail gun.

Couple rescues dogs

Geneviève Sabourin and her husband, Ken France, rescued the animals after a friend called them at home in neighbouring Knowlton to tell them about the dogs.

"She knows that Ken and I love animals," said Sabourin.

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Geneviève Sabourin walks the mother of the Labrador puppies she and her husband rescued after someone had punctured the animal's skull with a nail gun. ((Geneviève Sabourin))

The couple called the local SPA in Granby, but since it was late and it would take time for them to get to the dogs, Sabourin said she and her husband decided to go see them along the country road

When they arrived, Sabourin said the mother Lab was on the side of the road guarding her puppies who were huddled in a snow-covered ditch behind her.

"She was aggressive, growling a lot. So my husband approached her, we had brought some food, it worked," said Sabourin.

Eventually the mother calmed down and Sabourin said her husband managed to put a leash around her neck.

"At that time her attitude shifted totally. Her behaviour shifted. She became happy. Her tail was wagging … She wanted to leave, she wanted to go for a walk."

But what she did was pull France to a ditch across the road, where they found another puppy all alone in the snow.

'There were actually nails – four inch nails – punctured in her skull.' —Geneviève Sabourin

Sabourin said she wrapped the puppy and brought it into their car to warm up while her husband stayed outside with the mother and the other puppies.

"As I was petting the top of her head, I was feeling something hard," said Sabourin. "Then slowly the ice melted and I realized it was metal — metal in the head of that little puppy."

SPA staff arrived on the scene, at the intersection of Chemin Stagecoach and Chemin Johnston, to look after the dogs. Sabourin said they told her the puppy ended up dying on the way to the veterinarian and they had found another puppy dead in the ditch, with a nail in its head.

Later the SPA discovered the mother had also been attacked with a nail gun.

"They realized there were actually nails — four inch nails — punctured in her skull," Sabourin said.

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A veterinarian managed to remove the 4 inch nail from the dog's skull without leaving any long-term damage. ((Society for the Protection of Animals, Granby, Que.))

The mother survived after a veterinarian managed to remove the nail.

"Obviously she's been extremely lucky because there are no aftereffects ... she was on antibiotics to make sure there would be no infection," Sabourin said.

"Basically she just came out of this OK."

Reward offered in 'sadistic' act

"This is a deliberate act. Sadistic and cruel," said Micheline Robitaille, who has started a Facebook group offering a reward for anyone with information on the person responsible.

"We have to change people's attitudes, tell them they have to call police and open a file," she said. "We cannot accept this, as a society, in 2010."

The SPA has received a couple of tips, but spokesperson Paule Martin said there are still no concrete leads.

"Right now there are no suspects identified in connection with this barbaric act," she said.

Martin said the one bit of good news is that the SPA has managed to find homes for all 6 puppies and their mother.