'Gem in the Rough' Dog Saved From SF Landfill

Gem in the care of SFAC&C

A 3-month-old puppy just moments away from her death has a vigilant recycling plant worker to thank after he pushed the emergency brake on a conveyor belt, saving the puppy from a 20-foot fall into landfill waste.

Now, the puppy they've named Gem has a chance at a new life after dozens of offers to adopt her.

"It's difficult to imagine how the dog survived this ordeal," said Robert Reed, a spokesman for Recology, an advanced recycling program in San Francisco. "Nothing like this has happened before."

Recology has a recycling plant reserved just for heavy debris from construction projects that include concrete, metal and pieces of lumber, Reed told ABC News today. In an average day, the program processes about 400 tons of construction material at the plant.

The fact that Gem even made it to the conveyor belt alive is a minor miracle, Reed said.

The dog was likely put in a garbage bag, thrown into a dumpster specific for construction material, picked up by a garbage truck and hauled to a dump, Reed said. Once in the dump, the dog survived large piles of debris piled on top of him, only to be scooped up by a tractor and dumped onto a conveyor belt.

While riding along the conveyor belt, Gem went through the shaker screen which removes excess dirt and was on her way to a 20-foot fall down a chute to end up in a landfill.

Workers are stationed at the end of the conveyor belt to further inspect the material to see if anything else can be recycled before heading to the landfill. When trash sorter Greggory Foster noticed something moving on the line, he sprang into action.

"I was on the line working on the conveyor belt and there was a black trash bag coming down the line," Foster told ABC News. "It had a hole in it and I could see it moving."

Foster then hit the emergency stop button to shut down the conveyor belt.

"My coworker and I climbed up on the line," he said. "We pulled her out the bag and she was wet, bleeding, frightened and shaking."

Foster's coworker Arturo Pena rushed to the dog's aid with medical care, water and blankets and the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control was called in to assist. Pena stayed with the dog, comforting Gem as they waited for help to arrive.

Moments after Gem was rescued from the recycling plant.

"We received the call from Recology transfer station that they found a puppy on a conveyor belt," Captain Le Ellis Brown of SFACC told ABC News. "We responded to the call and we had this precious little gem and that's how she got her name. … A diamond in the rough."

Gem suffered bite wounds on her body, conjunctivitis in her eye and lameness in her legs. However, Brown said Gem is expected to make a full recovery.

SFACC is now focusing its efforts on figuring out Gem's background and working on her future. Reed said the dog was discovered Friday afternoon and he has no idea where the dog came from because the facility receives up to 100 loads a day.

SFACC sent out a news release urging the public to come forward with any information about the dog's owner or situation.

"We're asking if anyone knows who the owner is to contact the department," Brown said. "I don't want to owner to be scared to talk to us, we just want to get more information to make sure Gem gets a good quality of life."

That prompted an outpouring of support from the community, said Brown, who estimated 70 people have signed up to adopt Gem.

"Since we've been so flooded with calls," Brown said, "we most likely will have a lottery for her new home. "