Friday, July 9, 2010

Teaming up to help animals in Southern California

Submitted by EARS volunteer Heidi Ziegler of Los Angeles, California

Unlike natural disasters, in seizure cases, there is typically more time to plan and set up the shelter. On Wednesday and Thursday, July 7 and 8, volunteers with United Animal Nations' Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) arrived in Kern County, California from points north and south to do just that.

UAN was asked to provide critical temporary sheltering support for nearly 200 animals removed from Chihuahua Rescue in Tehachapi on Thursday after the organization’s director was evicted from the property and no longer had a facility to house the animals. (Read more in this Bakersfield Californian article.)

With excellent reports from the field on the different types of animals that were being found, EARS volunteers prepared for dogs from teacup Chihuahuas to Great Pyrenees, domesticated cats, chickens, doves, rabbits and mice.

In the late afternoon, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) pulled up with the first truckload of 99 dogs, 24 chickens and 7 cats. The careful process of unloading the animals and placing them in their assigned locations -- general dog population, isolation (for dogs with mange), medical, cat room, small animal corner, chicken wall, or the special handling (e.g., go slow or extra caution) -- continued until 7 p.m. About an hour later, the second truck with 30 or so large dogs and the remaining small animals arrived.

The majority of the animals were in good shape while some needed immediate medical care. Two local veterinarians volunteered their time at both the seizure site and the temporary shelter to see that the animals' immediate needs were met. It was gratifying to see representatives from multiple agencies, paid and volunteer, work together so seamlessly.

Food and supplies were donated to the effort by PetSmart Charities® through its Emergency Relief Waggin' program. Many of supplies were previously donated to Kern County Animal Control back in May in support of a similar case in which UAN sheltered more than 100 cats removed from an overrun property. The current response in Tehachapi is similar in that the owner had started a sanctuary and eventually became overwhelmed by the number of animals she had collected.

Volunteers rested comfortably overnight at a nearby hotel. Today the team will continue to evaluate the animals in preparation for transporting them to partner shelters and rescue groups later this weekend.

Here are more highlights from the day the animals arrived at the temporary shelter, from EARS volunteer Norma Rodriguez of Bellflower, California.

Eyes welled with tears of joy and hearts raced when following a day of waiting, the big rig from HSUS rolled in with “our” dogs! Such an awesome sight! We clapped, we waved, and we yelled and cheered for the dogs arriving on their first step on their journey to new homes. EARS and HSUS volunteers stood side by side in a collaborative effort to help animals in crisis. Soon we formed a “receiving” line to transfer the dogs from the HSUS rig to their clean, spacious kennels.

Janell Matthies (UAN Emergency Services Manager) and I stood inside the truck, she calling out “party for three,” meaning three dogs need three volunteers to carry them and one volunteer to carry the paperwork! Leashes changed hands as “red shirts” and “yellow shirts” raced up and down the ramp into and out of the truck. Faster than you can imagine, dogs were settled into their kennels and having a cool, refreshing drink of water. By the way, did I mention that the temperature outside the truck and building was 105?

It was getting late in the day, so after settling the dogs, chickens, cats, doves, mice and rats in their designated areas we went about the business of feeding and getting to know them. Land sharks? A few. Shy ones? A few. BIG ones? Oh yes. Chihuahuas? By the dozen! Crowing roosters? Music to the ears. Clucking hens? For sure! Cooing doves? I think those were Janell’s favorite as she made each one a little nest out of newspaper creatively fashioned. (By the way Janell, we learned to do that in a high school home nursing class only we called them “bedpans!”)

Over the next few days the response proceeded normally, with animals receiving “vet checks,” treatments, grooming and lots of loving from some very special volunteers. We had first-timers, and old-timers. (Me?) And, of course, the dedicated ones who have responded a number of times. An amazing bunch of people, each with a special talent or gift for the animals. One “newbie,” Elaine Hendricks, stands out for her excellent skill as a veterinary nurse as well as her kind and gentle way with the animals. Jody Kruger made me smile every time I saw her red EARS t-shirt covered with de-worming meds. I’m always inspired by tiny, petite Lynn Frischmann’s ability to handle the big dogs. Did I mention that some of the Great Pyrenees weighed in at well over 150 lbs?

Another volunteer, Diane Cunningham, traveled to Bakersfield from San Jose via train, bus and hotel shuttle to be able to help the animals. Such a hard worker! Karen Leyva and Barbara Forte developed skills in bathing and “comb outs” when tagged to pretty up our doggie guests. We chose the right people for that job as the results were wonderful. I could go on and on about our amazing red shirts, naming names, and about the amazing HSUS volunteers who all made this a truly successful and joyful deployment, but then I would still be writing this tomorrow! One thing is for sure, for the “newbies” this was a life-altering experience in that they all want to deploy again to help more animals. For us “old timers,” well, as always, we’re ready. Just call.

Photos: A rescued dog enjoys the safety and comfort of the temporary shelter; 24 chickens were among the animals removed from the Tehachapi property on July 8; EARS volunteers unload animals upon their arrival at the temporary shelter; EARS volunteer Brenda Kaplan of Novato, California, performs quality control on a newly erected kennel; the HSUS and UAN team; EARS volunteer Karen Leyva of Torrance, California grooms one of the rescued dogs; EARS volunteer Jody Kruger (right) of San Jose models her t-shirt adorned with de-worming meds; EARS volunteer Elaine Hendricks of Whittier, California gets a dog settled into the temporary shelter.

Photos courtesy Heidi Ziegler and Norma Rodriguez.

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