From Linda Watkins, Ridenbaugh Press editor who works with rescue dogs through PEt Adoption Network.
Facebook and several Oregon news stations are full of updates today about a “rescue bus” that broke down in Grants Pass yesterday. The bus was carrying approximately 100 small dogs released from the East County Animal Shelter in Los Angeles and bound for Sunny Sky’s Rescue in Puyallup. Included is one Chihuahua who just had puppies, and another ready to whelp at any moment.
At the last report state police had arrived with water, help, and volunteers. Groups on Facebook have set up donation accounts to help the rescue with bus repairs, possible vehicle rentals, and/or housing for the dogs if needed.
It’s turning into a heartwarming story of people trying to help otherwise doomed animals and needing help themselves – another story of the community stepping up to help neighbors in need.
But the drama of the story overshadows the real question: Why in the heck are 100+ dogs being shipped out of California to Washington state for adoption? Aside from the fact that such a long drive can’t be good for small dogs who already have some health issues, surely with their population California shouldn’t have any problem finding homes for these dogs in-state?
Sadly the answer is “no” – the dogs are being shipped north because there are no homes for them in California. Nor is there enough space in the California shelters or rescues for these dogs.
In the last three years the number of dogs being shipped out of California has skyrocketed.
At first there were single-dog or at most a half-dozen to a dozen-dog transports from Northern and North Coast shelters. It made sense as these shelters are actually closer and more easily accessible for Oregon rescues. Then a few Central California shelter dogs were added into the mix. And that made sense too as they were usually sending breeds in high demand up north, but in short supply – breeds like Chihuahuas, small terriers, poodles, etc. It seems that most of the dogs in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia shelters were larger, outdoorsy, active breeds and the small house and lap dogs were hard to come by. So providing a few of California’s excess “ankle biters” the opportunity to have a good home seemed like a good thing to do.
As the rescue networks grew, and the transportation up I-5 became more established, the numbers of dogs increased, and they started coming from shelters further south: Stanislaus County/Modesto, Kern County/Bakersfield, Lancaster, San Bernardino/Devore, Los Angeles, and Orange County. And as word of the abysmal conditions in these shelters spread, more rescues (and shelters) offered to take more of these easily adoptable small dogs – resulting in multiple transports that regularly ferry 40 to 100 dogs per week to the Pacific Northwest.
There’s no doubt that these dogs needed to get out of the shelters: Each day I hear (and have experienced) more horror stories about the conditions in the California shelters: overcrowded and underfunded, many of them contain twice the number of animals they were built to hold; dogs sit in overcrowded cages and fight for food as they are not able to be fed separately; the lack of volunteers and shelter staff means little exercise or attention and minimal sanitation; dogs coming in as strays with broken bones or other injuries are left without medical treatment and at the end of their “stray hold” period are either euthanized or offered to “rescue only;” kennel cough is rampant because of the overcrowding and lack of sanitation. Dogs come out of the shelters dehydrated, underfed, severely depressed, suffering from PTSD, and severe upper respiratory diseases as well as parasites, parvo, and distemper.
A healthy, well-adjusted dog will have some chance of getting out onto the adoption floor, but for each dog that makes it that far, several will go into the “holding” area where they will eventually be killed unless a rescue can find room to take them. So it’s no wonder that shelters and rescues in other states are stepping up to help these dogs – but the cost is great. (more…)