Non-profit rescuers provide pressure valve for pet overpopulation

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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When the Placer County Animal Shelter in North Auburn finds itself in danger of overcrowding and having to euthanize because there is no more room, rescue groups are stepping up to provide a pressure relief valve and save animals. From chow-chows and German shepherds to feral cats and ferrets, rescue groups provide a safe foster home for pets as they actively seek someone willing to take them home and care for them permanently. “They’re wonderful, what they do for us,” said Mike Winters, Placer County Animal Services manager. “We haven’t had to euthanize for lack of space because we can call on rescue groups.” No other non-profit rescue group works more closely with the Animal Shelter than A New Hope Animal Foundation. Based in Loomis but focusing on the Animal Shelter, the non-profit works with both dogs housed at the North Auburn facility or with volunteers to train and socialize canines for future adoption. For A New Hope, the work includes training patterned after leading dog behaviorist Patricia McConnell to make them more obedient and give dogs a second chance at a permanent home. “We want to ensure they never return to the animal shelter,” said Lynn Howe, A New Hope founder and president. “And we rarely, if ever, have an animal returned.” The adoption groups are required to have state-registered non-profit status and are monitored by the county for complaints to ensure that their goals align with the animal shelter’s, Winters said. Ferrets, illegal in California, are taken in by a Nevada rescue group. Feral cats are given a foster home in Lincoln. Several breeds of dogs have their own rescue groups. And in the Auburn area, cats and dogs of all breeds are taken in for future adoption at the North Auburn home of the Auburn Area Animal Rescue Foundation – also simply known by its acronym of AAARF. Desiree Johnson, president of AAARF, said that in the past 14 years, the organization has adopted out 7,500 pets. The spring kitten season has resulted in a full house at AAARF, with 55 cats and kittens currently being lodged at the facility, along with an average of seven to 10 dogs. Johnson compares the continuing unwanted kitten population explosion to the AIDS epidemic. “There’s continuing need for public attention when one unneutered male can produce litter after litter,” Johnson said. “Things spread quickly from one cat and can soon get out of control.” Blame starts with humans who may have a cat and think that they can either give a litter of kittens away or bring them to the animal shelter for adoption, she said. With a non-profit, low-cost spay and neuter clinic, the yearly jump in kitten numbers rescue groups experiences doesn’t have to happen. “If the word can get out, we wouldn’t be so full,” Johnson said. On the day Johnson was interviewed, her rescue group was finding a home for a Chihuahua-pincher mix with an amputated leg resulting from a birth defect. “The woman who had the mother was a hoarder and the mother had two births within nine months and died,” Johnson said. “We took in three unconditionally. We don’t pick and choose when we’re helping.” Karen Wyatt, a rural Auburn resident affiliated with the non-profit Golden State German Shepherd Rescue group, said that she’s pleased with the relationship the animal shelter has with rescuers in the area. “This shelter is very compassionate,” Wyatt said. “They will hang onto a dog from here to eternity.” Wyatt recently took in a 4-month-old pup that was being raised by a man who was going through a divorce and whose home was up for a short sale. “He was madly in love with the dog but was going into an apartment,” Wyatt said. Wyatt worked with the Animal Shelter to have the dog neutered and vaccinated before it was quickly adopted out to a family. After microchipping, neutering and a veterinarian checkup, a dog will be adopted out for a price of around $300 to $350 by the non-profit, Wyatt said. Wyatt takes in dogs from the Placer County shelter as well as ones from Grass Valley. When they leave, they’re more socialized and the prospective owner has filled out a lengthy questionnaire to determine if their housing situation and family members are ready for a German shepherd. “It’s like adopting a child,” Wyatt said. ----------------------------------------------------- It’s a pet’s world This is the last installment in a four-part series digging into the world of pet ownership in Placer County. Read and comment on the series at Sunday: A look at Placer County leash laws. Will they get tougher? Monday: The county’s animal shelter has its critics. What does staff have to say? Tuesday: Residents share their extreme love for their special pets Wednesday: Learn more about the various animal rescue organizations in our community