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Advocacy and Activism Animal Stories Get informed and educated

Why do L.A.’s Animal Services FAIL?

This is BOBO

This is just one example of many, why U.S. shelter systems suck: on Thursday last week I called the East Valley Animal Shelter in Van Nuys to receive more information about one specific dog. I saw a Mastiff, a massive, super sweet-looking dog on the shelter’s website who reminded me of my own dog Samson. Every week I promote a different dog on our Facebook fan page and was looking for a new doggie, when I saw this Mastiff named BOBO.

Owners had surrendered him after 9 years of companionship. I cross-posted his picture on Facebook, tweeted and asked friends for help the same day. After I walked my dogs I called the shelter with my ID number and the dog’s name ready and talked to a woman on the phone after waiting 20 minutes on the line. She was nice but had no clue; she greeted me with a very low and slow “hey”… and I didn’t understand the rest. I gave her the ID number and the dog’s name, and at first she couldn’t find him in the database, then we had this type of not-helpful conversation:

She: He is not at the shelter anymore.

Me (excited): Oh, really? What happened to him, did he get adopted? I’m talking about the big Mastiff with the black mask, he was brown and 154 lbs.

[I described the dog a little more]

She: Oh, hmmmm, yeah that dog…he is AGGRESSIVE.

Me: ‘Aggressive’? Like…dog aggressive, fear aggressive or human aggressive… what do you mean by ‘aggressive’? Is he shy or really aggressive, does he have a history?

She: Ahhhh, I don’t know, but he is human aggressive.

Me: So, is he still available? I want to drop by and take pictures of him. Is he still at your facility? Can you please check for me?

She: Hold on a second…Yes, he is here!

[I’m confused] Me: OK great. I will be there in an hour.

FAIL

This is silly boy Blanco (now: Bones). He is 2 years old and a very friendly and cute dog. His ID# is A1311910

I packed my stuff and was really excited to meet BOBO, a 154-lb. Mastiff. I arrived at the shelter with a friend of mine and walked through the whole shelter, taking pictures of the dogs and sharing doggie treats with them, patting them, looking into some shy, timid and anxious eyes. I stopped and took a deep breath every time and walked through all cages to see who is behind the bars. Calling them and trying to reach their necks with my fingers. As usual the shelter was full of Pit Bull Mixes and little Chihuahuas, each one cuter and cuter. It took me a while to walk through all cages. I couldn’t find the Mastiff and I walked again and again through every single kennel. Finally, I decided to ask a volunteer to take some dogs out and to help me take pictures of the dogs. We took pictures of 3 different dogs and I asked her if she knew anything about the Mastiff – and she said that he wasn’t there anymore, but she doesn’t know what happened to him.

After I spent an hour-and-a-half taking pictures, I walked to the front desk to find the special dog I was looking for. I was afraid to ask, because I feared to hear that they had to put him down or something. I hoped and wished he was still alive. I walked up to the font desk and asked one of the staff members in his uniform and he said he can’t help me without an ID number. I’d forgotten to write it down, so I started looking up the number on my phone, but had really bad reception inside the building. I described him, I mean, this dog is huge and how can’t you know anything about him? He is very eye-catching and you don’t take a Mastiff like him in every day. He was taken in on May 25 and nobody knew anything. My friend asked again, and the guy in the blue uniform was helping others in the meantime. A woman reminded me: “We need the ID number”. It took forever to load the pages. Then the man with the black shoulder long hair said: Ok let me see in the back. After 5 minutes he came out with an ID card and said: Is this the dog you are looking for? ME: “Yes, that’s him”. He: “Oh, he just got  adopted yesterday! I was looking at him and didn’t really buy it, and he showed me the kennel card with a red mark: ‘ADOPTED’. I took a deep breath and wanted to hug the man (I didn’t do it of course). BOBO made it, what a relief.

Love him! This is Ace – ID#A1313718 – brown and white Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix. 3 years old. He looked at me the whole time but didn’t get up.

I’m asking: Why do you have a back area where other dogs (not open to the public) are kept and just waiting for their death? Why do you hand out wrong information and rob a dog of the chance to get adopted? Why do you know so little about the dogs in your shelter and why do you not care? How can you not know anything about a 154 lb. dog? Why did I receive 3 different versions until I got the information I was trying to get? What kind of service is this, for an institution described as ‘Animal Services’?

Everyone who is involved in animal welfare, runs a non-profit rescue, pulls dogs out for a rescue, fosters dogs or just visits shelters like me as a caring individual, knows what I’m talking about. Why is nobody out in the kennel area? No excuses, please. In the 1 1/2 hours I saw at least 3 people who were really interested in dogs. It’s like going to a car dealer and walking around for an hour looking at cars, reading the detail cards and waiting for the sales guys. Do you think the car dealer would sell a car that way? In this case, these are not cars, these are living creatures waiting for a 2nd chance, a new home to rescue them from a kill shelter.

A young couple was looking for a dog and going through the kennels over and over again, an overexcited woman who fell in love with one of the puppies and talking loudly to her mom begged her to let her bring the little puppy home, another family walked around looking for little dogs. I had the desire to help these people and ask them what they were looking for and show them some dogs myself. They were looking for someone, trying to find a person who could assist them.

FAIL

Cute ‘Cookie’ – female, black and white Terrier mix. 8 years old. ID#A1309722

Everything was happening outside in the kennel area, while the complete staff was inside. Incompetent and bored staff members, annoyed by the questions of clients, potential adopters and people who just cared about these imprisoned animals and wanted to know more. Every time, I just wanted to kick someone for his/her false information, ignorance or incompetence.

It was 3:30 pm on a not busy Thursday afternoon and I couldn’t find any staff member to ask questions, they were all hanging out at the lobby and answering phone calls and pretending being super stressed and busy. All 5 of them;). Shelter Volunteer Sarah was great, she showed me 3 dogs and we hung out with them to give them some time and love outside the cages. She helped me a lot that day… and she was the only person I could find. The shelter volunteers, however, were sweating and working hard. One of them told me last time that he always picks up hamburgers for the dogs who get killed that day. They are not allowed to handle every dog, just the ones with the specific signs on the kennel cards.

I left the fancy prison in the Valley, many dogs trapped in cages, 70% Pit Bull Mixes. My camera in hand, loaded with pictures and videos. My thoughts were with all the sweet dogs and cats left behind. My heart was heavy and my eyes full of tears; I was happy that BOBO the mastiff made it out, and thank you to the family who adopted him!

The dogs shown in this post are some of the dogs up for adoption at the East Valley Shelter in Van Nuys, California. Please also read Thomas Cole’s article about no-kill’s limitations and Josh Liddy’s article confusion is a consistent trait of la county.

Bones video:

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An animal professional educates the public – Interview with Lorna from PupQuest [Audio]

Last month I was waiting in the waiting area at our vet’s office when I recognized a woman with two little Maltese dogs sitting in the corner and crying. It touched me, so I walked up to her and asked her if I could help somehow. She told me that she had to get very expensive hip surgery for one of her dogs and she couldn’t afford it. The dog was on pain medication and also had some eye problems. I asked her how old the dog is and she said just 3 years.

The vet told her that her little Maltese, Snow White, could be a puppy mill puppy – many of which suffer from health issues as the result of being kept under such bad conditions. While I was waiting for my paper work she also told me that he got him from a pet shop in L.A. I sat down and asked her if she knew about puppy mills and she said I’ve heard about them. We talked for an hour – I was shocked how badly she was informed, as well as how careless: she even got a second dog from the same pet shop.

While I was driving back home I asked myself, Why aren’t veterinarians educating people? I mean, it’s not really a big deal to explain, and they have examples visiting their offices and clinics every day. Why aren’t they placing flyers on the front desk and informing people about the risks of buying a puppy from a pet shop, instead of advertising for flea and tick treatments? C’mon… it can’t be all about the money.

Searching the internet for educational platforms I found some terrific sources every animal advocate, dog owner and future dog owner should visit, and one of them is definitely PupQuest. This great resource was created by an animal professional, a veterinarian who dedicates time and passion to educate the public about puppy mills/farms, buying online, pet shops, breeders, dog training and many other topics. An excellent source we highly recommend.

We had the great pleasure of speaking with Lorna, the founder of PupQuest. She and one of her creative students interested in PupQuest’s efforts have created a platform to inform and empower consumers. PupQuest – Interview with Lorna by PackPeople NEW: We made it easy to listen to our audio interviews. This audio is 31 minutes of educational content. Use the little flags in the blue bar in the SoundCloud Player to navigate through the questions and content.

About the interviewee: As a veterinarian Lorna has served on the board of directors of open and limited admission shelters. During her long career, she has been a humane educator for a large SPCA, worked as a certified veterinary technician, chaired the education committee of a shelter and created one of the first in-house shelter spay/neuter programs in the country. In veterinary school she was one of 12 students who created an alternative to terminal surgery dog labs. She also teaches at a large university.

PupQuest

Web: http://www.pupquest.org

Facebook: PupQuest

Twitter: @PupQuest

PupQuest’s links and recommendations:

In addition to PupQuest’s website, Lorna recommends the following websites to our PackPeople audience:

Dog Star Daily www.dogstardaily.com

Dr. Sophia Yin www.drsophiayin.com

Victoria Stilwell Positively www.positively.com

HAVEN (Human/Animal Violence Education Network) www.havennetwork.org

PackPeople’s What to Know (before getting your new dog/puppy from a shelter or rescue) e-book

Spreading the word can help save lives! If you liked the interview please share it with your community by clicking the Facebook and Twitter icons or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you for making an impact!

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