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Buyer Beware 1024 683 Animal Care and Control

Buyer Beware

Buyer Beware

Thirty years ago, I led an animal shelter in Topeka, Kansas and we were often called upon to assist when authorities raided illegal and inhumane puppy mills. These neglected, ill animals needed safe havens where they could receive treatment and ultimately be placed for adoption. We accepted this difficult and heartbreaking duty because of the compelling need to save these animals and help stem the fraud perpetrated on unsuspecting purchasers of their offspring.

The memories of the atrocities I witnessed as I worked alongside State inspectors, veterinarians, and animal welfare colleagues at these locations still haunt me to this day. The gross and callous disregard for basic animal needs and extreme suffering were unconscionable.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) defines: “A puppy mill is an inhumane high-volume dog breeding facility that churns out puppies for profit, ignoring the needs of the pups and their mothers. Dogs from puppy mills are often sick and unsocialized. Puppy mills commonly sell through internet sales, online classified ads, flea markets and pet stores. In fact, the majority of puppies sold in pet stores and online are from puppy mills. Responsible breeders will be happy to meet you in person and show you where the puppy was born and raised—and where their mom lives too.”

Pet owners who purchase the puppies born in puppy mills are often burdened with genetically defective and ill animals. Hydrocephalus, epilepsy, and liver shunts (a birth defect causing blood to bypass the liver) are just a few of the dozens of severe genetic problems that can be expected in puppy mill dogs. Illnesses such as parvovirus, distemper, ringworm, and mange are other common diseases and ailments in puppy mill dogs, caused by poor medical care and sanitation. Purchasers often spend thousands of dollars on veterinary expenses trying to save their new pets, but many times the animals are too ill and die despite all efforts. Others may have life-long expensive medical conditions to manage. Additionally, puppies from these sources may have genetic behavior problems such as aggression or excessive shyness.

Compared to their parents, the puppies that make it out of these places are the lucky ones. The dogs kept for breeding are doomed to lifetimes of living in these horrible situations, forced to produce litter after litter. Purchasing puppies from puppy mills supports and sustains these unconscionable businesses and mean more and more dogs will suffer lifetimes of neglect and abuse.

The identification of puppy mills as inhumane operations is not new, but the potential for this kind of animal abuse is growing and needs greater attention.  The COVID-19 pandemic has created a great demand for pets because people have been isolated or working from home, providing a great opportunity to introduce a new pet into the home. This demand has ignited many fraudulent breeders and brokers of puppies, and complaints have skyrocketed. In fact, the Better Business Bureau reports that online puppy scams rose by 500% in 2020, and consumers are expected to have lost more than $3,000,000, not to mention incalculable distress and disappointment.

This fraud upon the unsuspecting public and gross abuse of animals is happening right in our own community. In February 2021 in Los Angeles County, Gustavo Gonzalez was ordered to pay $203,000 in restitution to 63 victims of his puppy scam operation in which he sold dozens of sick and underaged puppies to families wanting to adopt. Many of these puppies died after arriving in their new homes. In addition to the restitution, Gonzalez was sentenced to 87 days in jail, placed on probation for a year, and waived time credits for the nearly two years he had already spent in jail. He was brought to justice by the tireless investigative work of the spcaLA and the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, and the prosecution by the Los Angeles County District Attorney.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has issued several warnings about these scams, which can include passing off mixed breed puppies as purebreds to fraudulently command high prices. In December 2020 the County D.A. warned that victims may be duped into purchasing what they believe to be purebred dogs for thousands of dollars, when in fact they are not purebred. https://da.lacounty.gov/community/fraud-alerts/scammers-try-pass-off-puppies-purebreds .

Some fraudulent breeders may also pose as animal rescue groups, to attract purchasers who seek to adopt a pet in need rather than purchasing one that is purpose-bred. However, these groups are also scammers who are puppy millers or brokers in disguise. In June 2017, the D.A.’s office issued a fraud alert about these animal shelter scams: http://da.lacounty.gov/community/fraud-alerts/animal-shelter-scam.

“These people are making a profit, so you have to stop the demand,” said spcaLA President Madeline Bernstein. “It’s a high profit business and there’s no incentive to invest in the welfare of the dogs in these situations. If we stop the demand, the suppliers lose their market and the buyers and animals are protected.”

So, what is a prospective new dog parent supposed to do? Here are some do’s and don’ts about obtaining your new family member:

DO

  • First, check out the available pets at your local animal shelters. New animals arrive daily, and many wonderful dogs are there through no fault of their own and will make outstanding family companions.
  • Look at available pets offered by animal rescue organizations, many of whom do identify themselves by breed interest. (Many puppy millers have established nonprofit organizations they call “rescues” to avoid the appearance of being puppy mills, but these are just fronting for their for-profit businesses. They may even sell them in pet stores!) Make sure the rescues you contact are legitimate organizations and not fraudulent scammers by considering these questions:
    • Does the group offer strictly purebred or “designer” breed puppies only? Legitimate rescues may focus on certain breeds but accept and rehome mixes as well, and dogs of all ages. Bona-fide rescues also usually have very few puppies, because puppies are less likely to be unwanted and therefore require rescue. When they do have puppies, litters are kept healthy by staying with their mother or a foster until they are at least eight weeks old.
    • Does the group appear genuinely interested in your suitability as a pet parent? Do they ask you questions to make sure you will provide a good home, or are they just eager to unload an animal and collect your money?
    • Does the group spay/neuter and microchip all animals prior to adoption into new homes? Reputable rescue groups will always seek to prevent pet overpopulation and maximize an animal’s chance to be found again if lost. They also ensure current vaccinations, have their animals checked by veterinarians, and offer complete information about their animals’ health.
    • View where the animals live. Fake rescues often keep their pets in filthy, hoarding conditions. Make sure the dog is either in a proper facility or a foster home. Insist on seeing your potential pet in the environment where it is being cared for.
    • Ask how the dog came to the rescue. In most cases, it should have come from an animal shelter or from an owner who could no longer care for it. Puppies purchased from puppy mill auctions or sources out of the country should not be offered.
    • There are no organizations that regulate animal rescues. Do your due diligence and research them online to ensure they have an established and reputable profile.
  • If you are committed to obtaining a specific breed and there is not a rescue group for that breed that can assist you, you might turn to a legitimate breeder. If you do, be sure to:
    • Meet the breeder in person. The breeder should be very knowledgeable and care about their breed. Legitimate breeders do not indiscriminately place their puppies without ensuring they are going to good homes. Breeders who show their dogs have demonstrated a commitment to maintaining the quality of their breed. The breeder should have suitable experience breeding and showing dogs,
    • See the conditions in which the dogs are raised. It should be clean and odor free, with lots of socialization opportunities for the dogs. Ensure they are fed a quality diet and have a structured health plan for all animals. Puppies should be vaccinated and dewormed on a schedule.
    • See the parents and evaluate their behavior and health. Sometimes the sires (father dogs) are not on the premises. If not, find out who they are and why this sire was chosen. It should be to complement the dam’s (mother’s) characteristics, or his outstanding genetic composition and breed titles, not just because he was conveniently available.
    • The breeder should be able to certify that the puppies and parents are screened and guaranteed against genetic problems common with the breed, such as eye and orthopedic problems. The breeder should offer refunds or exchanges if there are problems with the puppy down the road.

Whether you obtain a dog from an animal shelter, rescue group or reputable breeder, be sure to:

  • Make certain that puppies are at least eight weeks of age. They need to be with their mothers and littermates this long to develop good immune systems, proper dog socialization, and to be properly weaned and eating solid food.
  • Research the going price for the animal. It is customary for rescues to charge a couple hundred dollars to offset their costs for spay/neuter and care, but more than $500 is excessive (except in unusual cases). There are customary prices for puppies from legitimate breeders depending on the breed and whether the puppy is show or pet quality. Excessively low prices for a highly desirable puppy can be a sign of a fraudulent offer.
  • Obtain a contract of sale/adoption that documents your agreement, transfer of ownership, and return/reimbursement policies.

DON’T

  • Purchase puppies on the internet, craigslist, or other mass marketing platforms. Bogus breeder websites with stock photos are easy to set up and mislead purchasers as to the nature of the seller and quality/health of the animals.
  • Meet sellers in random public areas like parking lots. This is done to avoid allowing you to see the conditions in which the animals live and later be able to track down the illegitimate seller.
  • Pay for the puppies with Zelle, Venmo, gift cards, wire transfers, or other untraceable or difficult to recover payment sources. Use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.
  • Rely solely on photographs of the puppies or the living conditions. These can be easily faked.
  • Pursue purchasing a puppy from evasive or difficult to reach people. If they are unwilling to answer your questions or stop returning phone calls, walk away.
  • Get duped into excessively high and questionable shipping schemes. Many scammers accept payment for the puppy, then demand thousands of dollars more in shipping.

A pet is a lifetime commitment and should be selected with good judgment and research.  Buying a cute puppy from a questionable source risks the heartbreak of having a very sick animal and perpetuating the greed and cruelty of scammers.  If you come across a potential scammer do your part to stop this practice by reporting your experience to your local animal law enforcement and business monitoring agencies.   Bringing a new pet into your home should be a joyful and positive experience. I wish all new pet owners many years of love and companionship with a healthy and happy pet!

 

Marcia Mayeda

Pet Health Care Costs 1024 675 Animal Care and Control

Pet Health Care Costs

Pet Health Care Costs

In my March blog, I discussed findings from the February 2021 Modern Pet Parent Report that highlighted the importance pets have played during the pandemic. This report also discussed pet owners’ concerns regarding the ability to pay for their pets’ medical care. The survey reported, “The thing that stresses pet parents out the most is their pet getting sick (76%), their dog/cat having a chronic/long-term illness (73%), and potential unknown health issues (73%). In addition, 77% of pet parents are concerned about their pet’s future health.”

The costs of veterinary care have always been a factor to consider regarding pet ownership. Sometimes people express shock about the costs of veterinary medicine and believe veterinarians should discount their services so pet medical costs are more affordable. Expensive diagnostic costs such as x rays and blood tests are sometimes perceived as optional but are needed to ensure quality care is provided. This is especially true in emergency cases, in order to reach a definitive diagnosis and begin the right treatment plan as soon as possible.

Most people are unaware of the costs to operate a veterinary practice and veterinary costs are not subsidized like human medicine. Health insurance companies, local, State, and federal funding, and hospital nonprofit supporting foundations all factor into the costs hospitals for humans bill patients. Human medicine costs are actually significantly higher than what veterinarians charge, but most people never see the actual costs for human hospital services because of the subsidies mentioned above, especially for routine and non-emergency services. This leads to a misconception that veterinary medicine pricing is higher.

Veterinarians should be able to charge appropriately for their services, time, and expertise. They are doctors who have devoted years of study and passed rigorous examinations to become licensed and must be able to maintain a viable business. Many veterinary students graduate with nearly $200,000 in student debt and it can take decades to pay off these loans. Veterinary specialists pursue advanced board certifications requiring more investment in time and educational costs. Veterinary hospitals are businesses that must pay for salaries and benefits, supplies, medical equipment, operating costs, overhead, liability insurance, and more.  Veterinary expenses can be regular, like vaccinations and exams, or unexpected and costly. Some low-cost routine services like vaccines and spay/neuter surgeries can be found with local service providers (contact your local animal care center for referrals), but emergency services and long-term illnesses are not offered by these sources.

I know firsthand the unexpected medical costs of pet ownership and the need to make a very expensive decision right away. Several years ago, I took one of my routine early morning walks with our four large dogs. Suddenly Isabella, our nine-year-old Great Pyrenees, began having extreme difficulty breathing. We were three blocks from home when she collapsed and couldn’t walk anymore. She began gasping for air, her gums were turning blue, and she was in great distress. I was unable to carry her home (she weighed 95 pounds), especially with three other large dogs in tow. Thankfully, a good friend was close by and rushed over so I could put Isabella in her car. She drove Isabella home while I ran back to with the other three dogs, put Isabella in my car, and rushed her to the emergency hospital. On my way to the hospital another friend called them ahead of me so they could be prepared to receive Isabella right away. Two registered veterinary technicians were waiting outside with a gurney and they whisked Isabella into the hospital where the board-certified veterinarian began working on her. He intubated Isabella so she could begin receiving the necessary oxygen and stabilized her condition.

Once my precious dog was out of danger, the veterinarian explained to me what was happening. Isabella had developed a severe onset case of laryngeal paralysis, a condition where the nerves of the laryngeal muscles become weak or paralyzed and the flaps that separate the esophagus from the trachea do not work. In Isabella’s case, the flaps had mostly closed and were preventing her from taking in enough oxygen to her lungs.

The only treatment for Isabella was emergency surgery. One flap in her trachea had to be sutured to the tracheal wall to maintain an open airway or she would not survive. I was provided a surgery estimate of $5,000. The veterinarian also told me that dogs that have this surgery are more susceptible to aspiration pneumonia, where food or water could enter her trachea (and into her lungs) instead of her esophagus. Additionally, I learned that laryngeal paralysis is highly associated with myasthenia gravis, a disease where there is a malfunction in the transmission of signals between the nerves and muscles. This is most exhibited in extreme weakness and excessive fatigue and could be a condition she would face later.

My husband and I had to make a quick decision. A nine-year-old Great Pyrenees is a senior dog, and we had to consider the significant and unexpected surgical cost with Isabella’s life expectancy and ability to live a good life with the potential problems the veterinarian told us she might have. We agreed that we wanted to make every effort to save her life and proceeded with the surgery. I am happy to say it was successful and she lived another five years without any problems.

However, this was a very large and unexpected expense for us. What can pet owners do in situations like this? Here are a few options:

  1. Purchase pet health insurance. There are many resources on the internet that rank and rate pet insurance companies. Be sure to review each plan carefully and review the insurer’s track record, research what is covered and what might affect coverage, choose the coverage that works for you, pick the type of reimbursement that works for you, review the cost and value, ask about discounts, and enroll your pets when they are young and healthy to avoid limited coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
  2. Set aside savings to pay out of pocket when the time comes.
  3. Acquire emergency veterinary financing on credit. Care Credit is a well-known provider of such credit and most veterinary hospitals can tell you how to immediately apply. Make sure you read all the terms and conditions for payments to avoid penalties.
  4. Launch a crowdfunding campaign to get financial help from others. Many times, friends and family will chip in to help offset the costs of care.

I learned the benefit of having animal health insurance when my horse Murphy developed a severe case of cellulitis in his leg and had to be hospitalized for two weeks. His medical treatment came to an overwhelming $14,000, but thanks to his insurance I only had to pay the $350 deductible. The annual premium payments I had paid for years were a good investment and I’m grateful I had the insurance. He is now a happy 22-year-old Shire horse (often mistaken for a Clydesdale), enjoying his easy trail rides and getting petted by many hikers we meet along the way.

Owning a pet is countlessly rewarding, but also comes with the responsibility of being able to pay for appropriate medical care.  Veterinarians can save your pet’s life in an emergency, but they must be able to recover their costs to stay in business. Planning for high cost emergencies and/or unexpected diagnoses recurring long term care can alleviate worry and allow you to enjoy pet ownership more, knowing that you will be able to care for your pet no matter what comes.

 

Marcia Mayeda

 

But What About the Animals? 1024 536 Animal Care and Control

But What About the Animals?

But What About the Animals? (Post-COVID)

We have now reached the one-year anniversary of the shutdown of society as we responded to the threat of COVID-19. However, the future is looking very bright. After a devastating holiday season with huge spikes in infections and deaths, Los Angeles County has now entered the Red Tier and is moving to reopen parts of society. Vaccines are being produced and distributed as fast as possible, and it is anticipated that by this summer we will have turned the corner and begin to see more opportunities for life to return to normal.

In anticipation of the ability for pet owners to return to the workplace, many people have expressed their concerns to me regarding what will happen to all the pets that were adopted during the pandemic. They fear that these were impulse adoptions and the owners will surrender them to animal care centers or otherwise give them away.

I do not share this concern. One of the remarkable results of the last year has been our awareness of the importance that pets play in our lives. I believe pet owners will continue the love and devotion they showed this past year, being especially grateful for the companionship their pets provided to them as they were isolated from friends and family.

In fact, a new report by Kinship Partners reveals how devoted pet owners are to their companions. Just consider these findings from the pet parents that were surveyed:

  • 62% said their top priority is their pets’ happiness
  • 71% could not have survived 2020 without their pet(s)
  • 80% said their pets deserve more of their time in 2021
  • 82% said they plan to spoil their pets in 2021
  • 84% said COVID-19 showed them how much their pets improve their lives
  • 90% have built a stronger bond with their pet through 2020

You can read the full report here: (Report).

Lucy

COVID brought changes to my pet household as well. We sadly learned that our beloved Bernese Mountain Dog Lucy, who we had adopted seven years ago from the Agoura Animal Care Center, had untreatable cancer. I am so glad that I had the isolation time to be able to spend every moment with Lucy for the last five months of her life. Although I worked full time, it was from home with Lucy by my side. She received countless belly rubs, hugs, and kisses and we were able to monitor her closely to make sure she was comfortable. As her appetite waned, we prepared special homecooked meals for her and made sure her every need was met.

Holly and Dino

When Lucy passed, there was a huge void in our home. Although we still had Dino, an eight-year old Great Pyrenees (adopted from Great Pyrenees Rescue of Southern California), and Rebecca, a 10-year old Golden Retriever (adopted from the Lancaster Animal Care Center), something was missing. It was the exuberance of Lucy – although she was nine years old, she still acted like a puppy. So, we reached out to Great Pyrenees rescue again and found our new love – Holly. Holly was 16 months old when she joined the pack and has added new energy and antics to the household. A bit of a juvenile delinquent at the beginning, she has learned the rules of the house (no counter surfing or stealing drains from the yard) and we have benefited from the isolation period to make sure she has been well acclimated. She has made fast friends with Dino and Rebecca and is a delight.

I am fortunate that when it is safe to return to the office, I can bring my dogs with me (one of the benefits of working in animal welfare). All the dogs love this and visiting with their human and canine coworkers.

Rebecca, Dino, and Lucy at DACC Headquarters

However, most people can’t take their dogs to work with them. If you are planning to return to work and want to get your pets accustomed to your absence, check out this blog I wrote with advice on transitioning to your new work schedule: https://animalcare.lacounty.gov/returning-to-the-workplace/

What about the animals? Whether they come to an outside workplace with you or not, it is clear that new pet parents are devoted to their furry companions. I think the animals have a great year ahead of them!

Marcia Mayeda

 

Love is Limitless 1024 677 Animal Care and Control

Love is Limitless

Sometimes when I ask a person if they have any pets they will tell me about a beloved dog or cat that passed away. They remark sadly that they haven’t adopted a new pet because no other animal could ever replace the one they lost. I find this very unfortunate because these well-meaning animal lovers are depriving themselves of the joy and unconditional love of another animal.

Of course, the new animal will never replace the one that passed. Each animal is a unique being with its own behaviors, idiosyncrasies, likes, dislikes, and more. Each pet that has graced my life has been an amazing companion and no subsequent pet replaced the one who passed. However, each new pet brought a different personality into my life that was full of fun, love, and new adventures.

Finny and Murphy

Finny, my black lab, joined our family when I was 16 years old. He was with me through high school, college, and my first jobs in animal welfare. Finny loved to fetch, swim, chase flashlight beams, and taught himself how to break into my refrigerator. He licked my face constantly but didn’t like to snuggle in bed. He was a devoted companion in my early years, and we forged many unforgettable memories.

Gracie

When Finny passed, I decided I needed to have time to adjust to not having him in my life anymore. However, being without a dog is like being without oxygen for me and four days later a nine-month-old Golden Retriever entered the shelter where I worked. Gracie became my constant companion for the next nine years. Unlike Finny she did not lick my face but loved to snuggle in bed. Gracie loved children and accompanied me to schools and day cares, as well as senior citizen homes and hospitals, to visit and bring joy to the people she met. She would dive underwater to catch fish and protected my car with a ferocity that would impress any police dog.

Later came Montana, the German Shepherd Dog that protected me from a mugging one evening in the grocery store parking lot. She was the hardest driving, most energized dog I’ve ever known. She was also brilliant, learning dog tricks by watching other dogs without any direct training herself. She was completely devoted and very intuitive, and we had to keep making up new words or spelling them because if she heard the words she knew like ball, walk, car, food, etc. she would become unglued in her exuberance.

Kota, Carlisle, Montana, and Gracie

Kota was an Australian Shepherd/Samoyed mix who had a rough life on the streets before joining our home. He never got over his fear of feet but had the best sense of humor and was always up for a game of tug of war. He adored Gracie and Montana and loved bread. His eyes would get a dreamy look every time we drove past the Wonder Bread factory and the aroma of baking bread wafted into my car. His favorite treat was King’s Hawaiian bread, which we would keep on hand as his special treat.

Carlisle the Newfoundland had a calm, dignified presence that hid his inner child. He would not play with any of our other dogs when we were watching, but if he thought we couldn’t see him he would happily play like a puppy with Montana. Carlisle also had a game of taking other peoples’ belongings and hoarding them. My dogs have always come to work with me, and I would constantly find items under my desk that Carlisle had stolen from my coworkers.  A cane, a tin container full of coins, a tarp, a rock that propped someone’s door open, and my boss’s dog’s heartworm medication, among others. Before I knew what Carlisle was up to, I was annoyed that my coworkers thought they could use the area under my desk as a dumping ground for their items. Then one day a colleague caught Carlisle in the act of his kleptomania and we discovered his penchant for treasure hunting. He also loved to wear hats; his favorite was a sombrero we purchased on Olvera Street in Los Angeles.

Henry the yellow lab was a “career change” dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind, which meant he didn’t pass their training program. Henry hated going for walks, swimming, playing fetch, or just about anything Labrador retrievers like to do. He was nothing like Finny. However, his calm and assuring demeanor made him the perfect pet therapy dog to work with children that were victims of violent homes. One boy had witnessed extreme violence against his mother in the home, was unable to focus in school, would not be separated from his mother, and was seriously falling behind in his emotional and social development. After several months of working with Henry, the little boy began engaging in school and was able to attend his first birthday party. He had a picture of Henry next to his bed and kissed it every night before he went to sleep.

Henry, Sebastian, Isabella

Sebastian, the first of four Great Pyrenees dogs we would adopt. Sebastian liked to sleep on the cool tiles of our bathroom floor with his back against the wall. In the middle of his sleep, he would roll over so his feet and legs were pressed so close to the wall that he could not get up or reposition himself to roll the other way. He woke us up several nights each week with his attempts to free himself, and I would stumble out of bed to pull all 120 pounds of him away from the wall so he could again lay in a normal position.

Isabella, another Great Pyrenees, joined Sebastian in protecting our home and thwarted two burglary attempts. Isabella loved children more than anything; she was initially found as a stray at an elementary school. Her favorite day of the year was Halloween, when she would sit on the porch with me to hand out candy and get petted by all the neighborhood children. There was often a line at our home because the kids all wanted to pet her. She loved going to an annual Christmas party with dozens of children. One time, a parent set their little boy next to Isabella, who gently placed her paw over the boy’s leg as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this. He is safe with me.”

Rebecca was surrendered at our Lancaster animal care center by her owners at five months of age because they didn’t have time for her. Another Golden Retriever, Rebecca became the bane of Sebastian’s existence. Rebecca liked to grab Sebastian by the tail and drag him backwards across the tile floor. He was too gentle and kind to correct her but would look at us with pleading eyes to “please make her stop!” We would find him hiding in the bathroom or pantry to avoid her.

Lucy, a Bernese Mountain Dog, was adopted from our Agoura animal care center as a playmate for Rebecca and relief for Sebastian. Lucy was first passed over by one adopter, then returned by the second adopter because of her intense personality.

Lucy, Dino, and Rebecca

However, Lucy was a perfect fit for our home. Lucy loved with a passion unlike any other dog I’ve had. She followed me so closely that she would pop the back of my shoes off when I walked. Once time, when I returned home after being away for several days, she was so excited to see me that she sprained her tail from wagging it in excitement. Poor Lucy would cry every time she wagged her injured tail or sat down, and I had to take her to the emergency veterinarian for pain and anti-inflammatory medications.

Dino, our third Great Pyrenees, was surrendered to rescue when his owners were moving. He had the benefit of a great upbringing and came to us with very good manners. He was horrified when we told him he was allowed on the bed; this was NOT what he was taught. He rarely gets on the bed, and if he does, he has a guilty look on his face each time. He just doesn’t enjoy it.

Holly and Dino

Holly, another Great Pyrenees, just joined our pack at Thanksgiving, 2020. At one and a half years old, she started off quite timidly but has built her confidence over the past months. She enjoys grabbing Rebecca‘s tail as she’s running, which is poetic justice for the indignities Rebecca inflicted on Sebastian years ago. Holly has learned the best way to get a toy away from another dog is not a direct grab, but instead to back up to the dog and sit on it. Dino or Rebecca get irritated and leave the toy, and Holly accomplishes her objective without a fight. It has been fun watching her personality bloom and I look forward to discovering the dog that she will become as she matures.

Alexis and Thai

Throughout the years, several cats also shared our home and brought their own unique personalities to the family. Murphy was a short haired black and white cat who slept with his arms around my neck every night. He was best friends with Finny and even came on walks with us. Thai was a male Siamese mix who was very loving to me, but invisible whenever people came to visit. Alexis was a long haired black and white cat who I adopted as a friend for Thai. Thai, all thirteen pounds of him, took one look at this hissing kitten, vomited, ran away to hide under the bed, and didn’t come out for a day. I named Alexis after Alexis Carrington, the character played by Joan Collins on the Dynasty TV series (a popular show at the time) because she was also very beautiful and very controlling. She and Thai became fast friends, and she ruled over all our big dogs for the next seventeen and a half years.

Each of these animals lived their lives with us until old age or illness took them. Each loss was very difficult, and none of the animals were “replaced” by the others that came after. Each animal holds a special place in my heart, but there will always be room for another. If I had stopped at Finny and Murphy, I never would have known Gracie, Montana, Kota, Thai, Alexis, Carlisle, Henry, Sebastian, Isabella, Rebecca, Lucy, or Holly. I would have missed out on all these wonderful, unique relationships.

That’s the thing about love; it is limitless. Each new pet creates a different relationship full of love, joy, and companionship. It will not be like the last one, but it will be equally as important in a different way. If you have been putting off getting another pet because it will not be the same as your last one, please reconsider. Open yourself to the unknown possibilities of this new relationship and all the love it will bring to your life.

Marcia Mayeda

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Have You Hugged Your Pets Today?

Have You Hugged Your Pets Today?

I think everyone gave a sigh of relief at midnight on December 31, 2020. The most troubling and stressful year in recent memory was finally over. A devastating pandemic, social and physical isolation, widespread unemployment and business loss, a national spotlight on the very real issue of racial inequality, damaging riots and looting, and an extremely divisive and disputed presidential election all weighed heavily on peoples’ emotions. We all looked forward to seeing improvements in 2021. Then January 6, 2021 and an unprecedented assault on our very foundation of democracy hit us like a ton of bricks. A new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus is threatening us in 2021, as well as fears of continued assaults on our government and the rule of law.

Amidst these worrisome and frightening scenarios, there is a source of unconditional love in our homes that can help ease our minds as we grapple with the uncertain world. Of course, I am talking about our pets.

Pets have long been recognized as important resources for reducing anxiety and stress. Just petting or playing with a pet can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and release endorphins that have calming effects on our bodies and minds. Exercising with pets, such as walking a dog or riding a horse, enhance our physical health and help to reduce depression. Pets are especially impactful as we face the challenges of social isolation, providing companionship and structured routines throughout each day. The unconditional love of an animal helps us buffer the stressors that enter our lives.

The healthy impact of pets is remarkable. Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than those without pets. Heart attack patients with pets survive longer that those without. Pet owners over the age of 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets. Even hardened criminals in prison show long-term changes in their behavior when participating in animal related programs.

Pets are used to assist veterans with PTSD and serve as emotional support animals to others. Horses in therapeutic riding programs provide disabled riders with a sense of freedom and mobility they could otherwise not experience.

Pets aren’t limited to dogs and cats. Horses are wonderful companions, as I can attest. Rabbits make great pets for those who are allergic to dogs and cats. Keeping and watching fish have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and calm your heart rate. Having pets give our lives purpose and meaning. Adopting or fostering pets from your local animal care center can add a sense of fulfillment by providing a loving home to an animal in need. If you are ready to add a pet to your home, I encourage you to visit one of Los Angeles County’s seven animal care centers to bring an added sense of enrichment into your life.

As we enter 2021, let’s refocus on the joy that animals bring to our lives. Pull yourself away from the distractions of today and connect with the animals in your life. We all benefit from their constant love, devotion, and companionship. And, they benefit from ours.

 

Marcia Mayeda

 

 

 

Heroes Among Us 1024 801 Animal Care and Control

Heroes Among Us

Heroes Among Us

The holidays always bring one of my favorite memories back to me, making me smile and reflect on a special Christmas Eve that is as clear as yesterday although more than thirty five years have passed.

This particular Christmas Eve I was a junior in college, pursuing my Bachelor of Animal Science degree at Western Illinois University (WIU). I remained at the university over the holiday break because I was working both at the local animal shelter as well as the university’s sheep farm and the animals needed me. I say “worked”, but both positions brought me so much joy being with the animals that I didn’t consider it to be that. In fact, I often forgot to submit my timesheets for payment at the animal shelter (to the great frustration of my supervisor) and technically I didn’t get paid for working on the sheep farm – it was for college credit. Nevertheless, I took these responsibilities very seriously and learned a lot from both opportunities.

Animal Control Officer II Van Harrison is DACC’s longest serving ACO, dedicating his career of more than 44 years to help the animals and people in Los Angeles County.

Because it was Christmas break, most students had gone home to their families and I was the only one remaining in my small apartment building. Alone in the building, I was settling in for a cold midwestern Christmas Eve when I received a call from the County dispatch center to respond to an animal control call. It was the most bizarre call I had ever received.

The call was to go pick up a stray Lavender goat. A Lavender goat? I racked my brain trying to remember the various breeds of goats I might have learned about. WIU did not offer a goat science class, so I turned to my recollections of the James Herriot books I had devoured in high school. James Herriot, the British veterinarian who wrote books about his experiences as a veterinarian in Yorkshire, England, treated livestock as well as pets and perhaps he wrote about Lavender goats. Since most sheep breeds are named after the area in England from which they came (Suffolk, Hampshire, Cheviot, etc.), I thought this might help me identify the breed history of the Lavender goat. However I was unaware of any area in England called Lavender, could not recall any James Herriot stories about goats, and no other answers came to mind.

As I was driving to the call, I was struck by the quiet beauty of the evening. The streets were deserted, and a fresh snowfall covered everything in glittering, pristine snow. A full moon illuminated the peaceful, sparkling landscape and I was all alone in this winter wonderland as I drove to the call in anticipation and puzzlement.

Just then, a song came on the radio. It was “Jingle Bells” by The Singing Dogs. You know the tune; various pitches of dog barks are composed in the pattern of “Jingle Bells”. I couldn’t help laughing – this just made the evening perfect. The lone animal control officer in an iridescent landscape on a surreal call on Christmas Eve, listening to barking dogs singing “Jingle Bells” on the radio.

When I arrived at the location of the call, I had still not been able to recall the breed of goat called Lavender and was eager to see the goat and add this information to my knowledge in the animal science field. Then I saw the goat. It was purple. Purple! The WIU colors are purple and gold, and obviously this goat was spray painted purple as part of a college prank. That settled the mysterious case of the Lavender breed of goat.

The goat was unharmed, but needed a place to be sheltered, fed, and kept safe. The animal shelter was only designed to house dogs and cats, so I brought the goat to the university sheep ranch where I created a warm pen for her and fed her. She was later adopted to a local family.

Each time I remember this experience, I think of all the animal care and control employees who are working alone on Christmas Eve and every other holiday, evening, and weekend. Animal care is a 24/7 responsibility and these dedicated people ensure the animals are safe and cared for, even when it is personally inconvenient for themselves. They are away from their families and loved ones so the animals can be protected.

This year, animal care and control staff deserve even more recognition and acknowledgement. They have continued to serve and safeguard animals in the face of one of the worst pandemics this world has ever seen. Our team has had to make many adjustments, implement new protocols, and identify a new normal for our care center operations. Throughout it all, our compassionate and dedicated staff have risen to the occasion despite extreme difficulties and uncertainties. The same gratitude goes out to our healthcare workers, first responders, and everyone else who is working for the common good to provide service and care during this time.

If you are one of these people, thank you for your ongoing service to keeping us safe. If not, please join me in gratitude for their efforts. There are many unsung heroes among us, including the lone animal control officer you may see this year on Christmas Eve.

Marcia Mayeda

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS 290 523 Animal Care and Control

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS

Obtaining my Master of Nonprofit Administration degree from the University of San Francisco was an enriching experience that gave me greater insight into the critical impact nonprofit organizations play in our communities. Many nonprofits bridge gaps between government and those in need of assistance. In our case, DACC is grateful for the vital programs provided by the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation (ACF).

The ACF is a private 501(c)3 charity with an independent board of directors that raises money to support the care of the animals at DACC care centers. Due to the generosity of the ACF, DACC can provide enhanced and exceptional care and services to the animals and people who care about them.

Here are just some highlights of what the ACF has supported:

  • The Dreams Come True fund, which pays for medical care that exceeds the capability of ACC resources. Many animals’ lives have been saved through this fund, such as victims of animal abuse, physical trauma from being hit by cars, or other complicated injuries.
  • The Grooming Gives Hope fund, which provides for professional grooming services for ACC animals that are extremely matted. These animals often suffer from underlying medical conditions caused by the matting. The animals are dull and depressed upon arrival due to their pain and illness. After a few hours of grooming and TLC, they are bright and exuberant, and their medical needs are addressed.
  • The Noah’s Legacy fund, which supports emergency evacuation and sheltering services during wildfires, mudslides, and other disasters. This fund has purchased emergency supplies, food, medical care (including a state of the art mobile medical clinic), and towing vehicles and trailers to rescue animals.
  • The animal fostering program, by purchasing supplies such as milk replacer, heating pads, bottles, and other supplies to help save the lives of neonatal animals without mothers.
  • Installation of dog play yards at the ACCs, where dogs can participate in the impactful play group program. Play groups greatly reduce stress for the dogs which results in less illness, depression, and anxiety.
  • Enhanced cat housing, including an outdoor “catio” where cats can safely enjoy sunbathing and fresh air.
  • A horse barn and many new corrals and turnouts for horses to receive high quality sheltering and exercise opportunities.

There are many more ways the ACF helps the animals cared for by DACC. Donations to the ACF support these important programs and ensure brighter futures for the animals we all care about. In addition to your own donation, gifts can be made in honor of yourself or another person, making this a thoughtful and impactful way to show your compassion for animals. The ACF also accepts gifts of stock, vehicles, and may be named in estate planning documents. To support the ACF and learn more, please visit www.lacountyanimals.org. In these uncertain times will you join others to help bridge the gap for our animals? The animals are grateful for your support.

Marcia Mayeda

Saving Yumi 1024 768 Animal Care and Control

Saving Yumi

Saving Yumi

Recently DACC animal control officer Matthew Davoodzadeh responded to a call to recover a deceased dog, but upon arrival discovered the one-year old Shih Tzu was not actually dead but terribly injured and in need of emergency treatment. He immediately rushed the dog, later named “Yumi”, back to the department’s Palmdale Animal Care Center where Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) Alexandria Jarlsberg led animal caretaking staff to begin immediate lifesaving actions to save her.

Yumi After Treatment

Yumi Upon Arrival

Yumi’s coat was severely matted and she had hundreds of foxtails working their way into her body. Foxtails are very dangerous to dogs; the barbed seed heads can work their way into any part of the body and lead to serious infection and even death if left untreated. Yumi’s severely matted body was shaved and staff had to remove hundreds of foxtails throughout her tiny body. The foxtail infestation was so severe that Yumi had ulcerations in her eyes, as well as a severe infection in her ear. Many foxtails penetrated more than half their length into her body.

RVT Jarlsberg led her team of Animal Care Attendants Rodolfo Martinez and Emma Vargas to complete the hours-long painstaking process of foxtail removal and provided immediate medical care. By the next morning Yumi was eating, drinking, resting comfortably, and would perk up when staff brought her more food. She was a true fighter, and everyone felt a great sense of relief and satisfaction to see her pull through. Although Yumi did lose one eye from foxtail damage, she recovered well and was placed into a permanent, loving home.

This is but one of the thousands of examples of DACC RVTs’ work to save lives. RVTs are unsung heroes who provide critical services to support and advance the health and well-being for more than 70,000 animals admitted to DACC’s seven animal care centers each year. Many animals arrive injured, ill, neglected, or in need of other medical assistance. All animals are examined by one of our 27 RVTs upon arrival, ensuring that their medical statuses are evaluated, and they receive prophylactic care such as vaccinations and treatments such as de-worming and parasite control. RVTs also alert our staff veterinarians of the need for further examination and diagnosis, or in their absence identify animals that should be referred to private contract veterinarians for further care.

RVTs are licensed professionals who must complete a two-year course of study and pass State licensing examinations. They are authorized under law to perform procedures not permissible for unlicensed caregivers such as inducing anesthesia, applying casts and splints, performing dental extractions, suturing tissue, and administering controlled substances such as pain medication. DACC relies heavily on the skills and compassion of these dedicated professionals to ensure the care and comfort of our animals.

Yumi’s story is but one of the thousands of examples of DACC RVTs’ work to save lives. We honor and recognize their contribution and importance in our department, and to all RVTs in private practice who care for our own beloved pets.

Marcia Mayeda

DACC To The Rescue 1024 772 Animal Care and Control

DACC To The Rescue

As I write this, DACC is continuing its emergency animal sheltering services for residents displaced by the devastating Lake Fire, which has burned more than 31,000 acres in the Antelope Valley of northern Los Angeles County. The Ranch Fire near Azusa has been burning as well, causing further evacuations. Additionally, approximately 12,000 lightning strikes have started 585 fires in California over the past week, burning more than one million acres. There is no end in sight for these current wildfires, and more than 13,000 firefighters are battling the fires across California to protect lives and property.

These recent events underscore the importance of having an emergency plan that includes your pets. Because many people must evacuate at a moment’s notice, this plan should be completed and ready to implement immediately. Here are things pet owners should do to ensure their beloved companions are protected:

For dogs, cats, and small companion animals compile an evacuation kit that contains the following information (your pets should already be wearing ID and license tags):

  • Copies of vaccine records, especially rabies
  • Copies of pet licensing records
  • Microchip information, including the pet’s microchip ID number and the issuing company (make sure your information is current with the company – many people move and forget to update the company with their new contact information).
  • A list of all medications taken by your pet, with a week’s supply in the kit. Note the diagnosis/reason the pet takes the medication in case someone else must provide the care.
  • Flea and tick medication
  • Five days’ worth of pet food
  • Collapsible food and water containers
  • Extra leashes/harnesses
  • A collapsible crate to safely confine your pet to protect it from harm
  • Toys, blankets, treats, and other items to comfort your pet in a strange environment
  • Clear photographs of your pet, including full body pictures from both sides and a close up of their face.

For horses and livestock:

  • Make certain your trailer is safe and functional. Perform a complete safety check, including the flooring, frame, welds, axle, brakes, lights, hitch, interior safety and tires. Do this now, before you must move your animals.
  • Ensure your horses or other livestock will quickly and obediently load. There have been unfortunate cases of animals left behind because owners were not able to load them into the trailers for evacuation.
  • Include copies of vaccinations, especially Strangles, Equine Infectious Anemia, and West Nile virus for horses.
  • DACC encourages the microchipping of horses and livestock, not only to identify them if they become lost or evacuated without identification but also to reduce the threat of livestock theft. Microchip your livestock and keep the microchip records up to date, with copies in your evacuation kit.
  • Lists of all medications, special feed, medical issues, or other needs your animals may have.
  • Have clear photographs of your animals, both full bodied from both sides as well as of any brands, ear tags, ear notches, or other identifying information.
  • If you are evacuating livestock from threat of fire, do not place any shavings, straw, or other bedding in the trailer because sparks can fly into the trailer and ignite the bedding. For the same reason, do not put blankets on your horses when evacuating from fires.
  • Bring fly masks, fly sheets, halters and lead ropes, and other items for your animals’ comfort.
  • Many people will identify their horses by writing their phone numbers on the horses’ hooves, or attaching an equine-specific safety neck band with identifying information. This is a good supplement to the microchip.

DACC responds regularly throughout the year to provide animal evacuation and sheltering services. Our dedicated staff and volunteers work 24 hours a day to provide for the comfort and safety of evacuated animals. We view this as an honor to be able to serve the people and animals of Los Angeles County.

Evacuations are not always the result of wildfires. Mudslides, train derailments, toxic emissions, and other man-made disasters can cause emergency evacuations even in non-fire prone areas. Can your pets and animals count on you for their emergency preparedness?

 

Marcia Mayeda

MANAGED INTAKE OF ANIMALS: A NEW APPROACH TO CREATE BEST OUTCOMES FOR ANIMALS 1024 683 Animal Care and Control

MANAGED INTAKE OF ANIMALS: A NEW APPROACH TO CREATE BEST OUTCOMES FOR ANIMALS

The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) has adopted a new strategy for helping animals as part of its implementation of the nationally recognized animal sheltering model known as Socially Conscious Animal Sheltering (SCAS), adopted by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on August 6, 2019. Called “Managed Intake,” this strategy aligns DACC practices with the needs and resources of the community to reduce the need to accept animals into the seven DACC animal care centers and increase positive outcomes for stray and unwanted animals.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, DACC reached out to other animal sheltering organizations across the country to learn and adopt best practices to provide SCAS in this current environment and in the future. As a result, DACC has determined the former practice of receiving animals into DACC animal care centers without some measure of control should be refined to provide better animal population management and customer service. By partnering with the community to identify other options for stray and unwanted animals and provide solutions to the problems that bring these animals to our doors, DACC can prioritize situations in which receiving a pet into our care is the best or only option for that animal.

Managed Intake programs allow agencies to manage and reduce the flow of both owned pets and homeless animals into their care. By reducing the intake of animals from our communities, DACC is better able to provide individual care and attention to each animal in its care. With limited space at Los Angeles County animal care centers, it is our responsibility to identify any possible alternatives to impoundment, provide more robust resources, and increase positive outcomes for the animals that do have to be admitted into the care centers.

Community Engagement

Community engagement is the key to successfully employing a Managed Intake approach. DACC has found that many community members, given the appropriate training and resources, would like to retain their pet or help a lost pet find its way home. By viewing the community as an extension of DACC the collaboration benefits vulnerable animals, is more rewarding for the people who care about them, and increases DACC’s capacity to provide services. Animal care centers serve as community resource centers by aligning animals and owners in need with the resources they need, when they need them. The engagement of volunteers and community partners are also key components to a successful Managed Intake approach because of the vast human and material resources they can bring to fostering, networking, facilitating adoptions, or solving problems to allow pets to stay with their owners.

Owned Pets

When an owner considers relinquishing a pet, DACC first recommends and offers resources such as training and behavior advice, food and supplies, or support with other solutions to help keep the pet in the home. The most common reasons for pet surrender in Los Angeles County are medical care costs and housing issues. Under Managed Intake, DACC staff discuss these concerns with owners and refer them to resources that will allow them to reconsider surrendering their pets. Other times owners are simply frustrated with behavioral problems or lack the resources to fix fencing or address other one-time needs. With support to resolve these issues, pets can remain with the family that already knows and loves them. If a pet owner is still unable or unwilling to keep their pet, DACC provides advice to owners about how to rehome their pets themselves and avoid having to surrender their pets to an animal care center. This can be a less stressful outcome for both pets and their owners and saves valuable and limited animal housing space for those animals at the animal care centers who have no other options. If the owner is unable to rehome their pet on their own, DACC will accept it and seek the best possible outcome for that animal. Managed Intake at DACC also assists pet owners experiencing homelessness or other serious but hopefully temporary personal situations such as severe illness or domestic violence by referring pet owners in need to resources for pet friendly housing, homeless services, free veterinary treatment, or free temporary pet boarding.

Stray Animals

Most stray animals are found within a few miles of their homes, and methods other than animal care center intake may more quickly and less expensively reunite these lost pets with their families. DACC encourages people who have found lost pets to first attempt reuniting the pets with their families by having the pets scanned for microchips to identify owner contact information, using neighborhood and social media apps to publicize found pets, and posting fliers in the neighborhood. DACC advises on effective pet reunification strategies, provides templates for flyers to post in neighborhoods, and offers other suggestions to engage the neighborhood and community. When finders are not successful or are unable to engage in these activities, DACC will accept the animals to ensure the safety of both animals and the public.

Healthy free roaming cats are generally deferred from impoundment because they are thriving in their current environment. Many free roaming cats have a family and vary their time between the home and outdoors. Bringing these cats to an animal care center removes them from their home territories, and owners generally don’t look for them at animal care centers for many days. Unfortunately, the return to owner rate for cats is less than 5%. By the time the owner comes to an animal care center, their pet cat could have come and gone. Other times, a home or group of homes is providing food and water to unowned neighborhood cats. These cats have established themselves as part of their neighborhood and do not need animal care center assistance. Prior to Managed Intake at DACC, approximately 50% of impounded cats were euthanized. That number has dropped dramatically because healthy free roaming cats are allowed to remain where they live.

Additionally, DACC has launched a “Got Kittens?” campaign to address the seasonal influx of kittens into animal care centers. By educating the public about identifying whether kittens are truly abandoned by their mother and in need of immediate assistance, more kittens can remain with their mothers during the critical nursing stage until weaned. This approach is healthier for kittens and improves their chance to later be successfully adopted. If the kittens have actually been abandoned by their mother, DACC provides education and fostering supplies to community members who enjoy caring for them until they are old enough for adoption through DACC or other resources. Underage kittens impounded without their mothers are in fact the most common reason for animal euthanasia, and DACC is preventing the unnecessary impoundment of kittens by educating the community and expanding its volunteer foster program.

Any cats or kittens that are malnourished, ill, injured, or require assistance are welcomed at DACC so they can receive the care they need. DACC is also exploring opportunities to expand low-cost spay/neuter services for cats to prevent the birth of unwanted kittens.

Public Safety and Animal Welfare

DACC recognizes that some animals must be immediately brought to an animal care center for their own safety or the safety of the public. Animals that pose a safety threat will immediately and safely be impounded. Animals that are sick or injured will be accepted so medical assistance can be provided. Additional situations may include an owner’s sudden and complete inability to provide care, animal cruelty and neglect cases, and other special circumstances.

Appointment-Based Services

DACC has implemented appointment only services to better assist the public. DACC’s move to appointment only services has eliminated the long in-person customer waiting lines of the past. Every case is unique, and by using appointments to provide services DACC staff can anticipate needs and be better prepared to individualize the provision of resources and the outcome plan for each animal to meet our commitment to their health and safety and best chance of a positive outcome. Appointments are conducted with a case management approach emphasizing the individual human-animal bond. Preliminary phone interviews are conducted prior to in-person services and can even prevent the need to come to an animal care center. Phone interviews also prepare visitors to ensure proper physical distancing requirements are maintained when in-person services are required.

Conclusion
In summary, through the Managed Intake approach DACC is better able to dedicate its limited resources to the animals and people most in need. Prior to Managed Intake, animal care centers often operated at or above capacity in terms of space and staffing availability. These challenges compromised DACC’s ability to provide a full range of services to optimize animal care and meet the needs of the public. With Managed Intake, impounded animals receive better care given DACC capacity, and people receive more personalized attention with their animal issues.
Managed Intake is a thoughtful public policy to create the best outcomes for all animals while valuing the human-animal bond. By engaging the community, more pets and families can remain together, lost pets are more quickly reunited with their families, limited governmental resources are preserved for those animals and people with no other options, and animal euthanasia is decreased. DACC will continue to refine and adjust its practices as circumstances warrant and is grateful for the support of the community, both in these troubled times and into the future as we work together to create communities where every animal is wanted and loved.
Best wishes to you and your loved ones for safety and good health.

Marcia Mayeda

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