Having spent the last six months providing logistics for the Wings of Rescue/Shelter Me/Bark Avenue transports, which have flown nearly a thousand pets – from 21 different high intake shelters in twelve Southern California shelter systems – to safety in 10 different northwestern no kill shelters, has been a real eye opener for me. Interacting with the different shelters’ staffs has shown that there are shelter directors out there who are doing everything possible to save pets, and that nearly every shelter worker I’ve met is underpaid and underappreciated for their long hours working to save lives.
Some of the highlights have been watching shelter directors like Ted Stevens from Long Beach and Willa Bagwell from the Animal Friends of the Valleys shelter in Wildomar not only personally driving their pets to the airport and helping load the planes, but then asking how they could work even more closely with us. Working with the Downey Shelter has been an absolute pleasure as we’ve watched the entire shelter, from manager Danny Ubario and Lt. Maria Rosales to veterinarian Carissa Jones and lead volunteer Debbie Tittle, leave no stone unturned to get over 400 of their pets to safety. East Valley’s Veronica Perry embodies everything that is right with municipal shelters and I was particularly pleased that Seaaca’s head, Sally Hazzard, not only came to our big Long Beach transport but then thoughtfully offered constructive criticism that will make our team even better. Carson’s Kat Rosales has been a dream to work with and we give full marks to Orange County’s shelter for their eager ‘can do’ attitude.
All of these people from so many different shelter systems are working together to try something new and save their pets. Even Marcia Mayeda, whose natural tendency is to make it difficult to save the pets in her shelter system, deserves thanks for staying out of the way and letting her staff rescue pets, which is the job they thought they signed up for when they entered her employ
Unfortunately one particularly shortsighted shelter system’s director has one set of rules for pets taken by national fundraising organizations and another for local rescues, but this could not hamper what has been a great experience for shelter workers and rescues working hand in hand together to save lives.
The problems facing Southern California shelter systems – an overabundance of strays, lack of spay/neuter laws and enforcement, and a poorly educated public – aren’t going away any time soon, but when we all work together and do our utmost to get pets into loving homes we can make a difference.