California Has to Stem the Tide of Dogs

California Has to Stem the Tide of Dogs

By: Staff  Date: 01/30/2013 Category: | Rescue |

Ed. note: this letter, by Linda Watkins of the Ridenbaugh Press was originally published on January 17, 2013, and has been reprinted with permission of the author.

Dear Governor Brown,

I’m writing to you on behalf of the dogs and cats of Oregon, and the dogs and cats of California.

On January 13, in Brooks, Oregon – just a few miles north of our capital city of Salem – the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and staff from the Willamette and Oregon humane societies seized over 130 dogs that were stashed in crates in a 7500 sq. ft. warehouse. The dogs were without adequate space, water, or food; and they were in need of medical care.

Why I’m telling you about this? Well, because the majority of those dogs came from the Porterville, California animal shelter.

Why were they found in a warehouse in Oregon? Because California’s shelters are so overfull of dogs that your shelters are sending them by the truckloads up to Oregon and Washington – to rescues they know nothing about.

On behalf of the reputable, responsible rescues in Oregon and Washington, I am embarrassed and ashamed that this situation developed. Rescues and shelters up here are stepping up to help these dogs; and we’ll make it right. We don’t like that this happened and I’m pretty sure that the fallout from this will contribute to making some changes in how rescues in this state operate.

But, more to the point, over the last several years we have become increasingly concerned about the numbers of dogs that your shelters are shipping out of state. We’re concerned because your counties appear to be doing nothing to stem the flow of dog production that is causing this situation. We’re concerned because the dogs are being dumped all over the country with little to no review or evaluation of the shelters and rescues to which they’re being sent. We’re concerned because they are leaving your state in poor health: full of ticks and fleas, intestinal parasites such as giardia and coccidia, and infected with heartworm, parvo, and distemper; they are dogs who have sat in shelters for weeks with untreated injuries ranging from severe scrapes and abrasions to broken legs. We’re concerned because nobody is monitoring the transports as dogs are packed in crates and stuffed into unheated, unventilated vans and driven 16 to 20 hours with no water or potty breaks or food, by uncertified drivers. We’re concerned because the dogs (and cats) arrive dehydrated, ill, un-spayed or -neutered, and carrying new strains of diseases that weren’t previously present up here. And we’re concerned because as small, local rescues and shelters we know that we barely have enough space and resources to help Oregon and Washington dogs let alone the thousands you send out of state each year.

What we don’t understand is why the folks in California are doing virtually nothing to clean up your problem – instead you seem to be perfectly content to continue shipping dogs to every part of the country: New England, the Mid-West, Canada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington; you name the state or the province, and they’ve likely had several shipments of dogs from California’s major Central and San Joaquin valley shelters: Merced, Modesto, Salinas, Devore, Bakersfield/Kern County, Porterville/Tulare County, Orange County, and Los Angeles (including Lancaster). The word is out that these are now some of the highest “kill” shelters in the country. And the dogs don’t die easy: Often they’re finally killed only after they’ve developed pneumonia, or any one of several other respiratory diseases constantly present in the shelters. Being born in or put into these and a number of other California shelters is a certain death sentence – and that’s why other states are ending up with California’s unwanted dogs and cats.

Do you have any idea of the mental toll taken on shelter staff when day after day they have to kill frightened, loving animals because the people who should have been responsible for them shirked that responsibility? Weekly – sometimes even daily, the shelter workers in California have to kill dogs they’ve come to know – they’ve seen them arrive at the shelter bewildered and terrified – unable to understand how they ended up in this place that reeks of illness and death. They’ve watched as the days tick by, and some of the dogs begin to maybe hope that they will live, and others give up – knowing they will never leave this place alive. And then, these same people have to do what the dogs sensed the day they arrived.

So the shelters, and the rescue workers in California have been happy and relieved to find that there are places to send these dogs, and people to help them. The citizens of California have failed in their responsibility but someone else has stepped up. And they don’t question too much, the good luck of the dogs – they’re just grateful that when they send 60, or 70, or 80+ dogs out the doors, it means they have that many fewer euthanizations to perform that week. Unfortunately taking all of these animals from your shelters and finding them forever homes isn’t always the fairytale ending that we’d like to see. I’ve no doubt that some of these folks who take 60, or 70, or 80 dogs at a time mean well – it’s hard to turn your back on a dog shaking in the back corner of a kennel – knowing that by leaving it you’re committing it to certain death.

Unfortunately, hearts are larger than resources – and messes like the one in Brooks happen. As one rescuer commented: “I really wonder when the people of California will pull their heads out of [the sand] and do something about pet overpopulation. The Orange County shelter alone serves a population of over 4 million people; it’s ludicrous. Oregon and Washington – we have our own issues….it’s heartbreaking and it’s sad and it wrenches my gut that in my house tonight I have two senior boxer boxer/mixes who were “saved” from California…NOT. Lucky them, they found their way to my house and will be rehabbed and adopted…for those that have died, still not safe, I honestly lose sleep and am an emotional wreck because of the naivete of all of us who thought “everything would be all right.”

Governor Brown: California has a mess, and you all need to get your act together and clean it up instead of allowing someone else to do it for you. Because, the emotional and financial resources for the people who have been helping are dwindling quickly. We can’t help you much longer – we can barely take care of our own.

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