You can call me Petey, you can call me Sweetie, you can call me #A291038, or you can call me just plain lucky.
Lucky because Petey, a Labrador mix who lived rough on the streets for a couple of weeks, was rescued before he starved or met the business end of an SUV. And lucky because, though he divided his time between Pasadena and Altadena, on that fateful Friday, he happened to be trotting on the right side of the tracks -- south of Woodbury. So he took a three-mile trip to the Pasadena Humane Society rather than a 20 mile journey to the County shelter in Baldwin Park.
As Veronica Ferrantelli, founder of The Dog Rescuers, a non-profit organization, says, "Baldwin Park is much better than it used to be, and much better than most of the other county shelters -- some of which are absolutely horrific. But Pasadena Humane Society is the gold standard -- the creme de la creme."
This isn't to throw Baldwin Park under the bus. Not too long ago, this LA County shelter, a shelter that serves Altadena and 34 (count ‘em) other cities and towns, had a dismal reputation among animal rescue organizations. Current shelter manager Lance Hunter has made heroic efforts to turn things around, developing partnerships with local businesses and volunteers to help find homes for the permanently lost and abandoned.
BUT it is a county shelter, of limited means, accepting 700 to 800 homeless dogs per week. You do the placement math.
Which brings up another issue. When our designated animal shelter is 20 miles from our own backyard, it’s like sweeping all the lost and abandoned dogs and cats under the rug. Out of sight, out of mind. Perhaps that explains why, pre-Hunter, Baldwin Park Shelter continued to function in sub-par conditions. Overcrowded, understaffed, and woefully mismanaged.
That’s always the problem when you outsource. You haven’t solved the problem, you’ve just moved it off the radar.
Ideally, we could partner with PHS, and have a satellite shelter facility in Altadena. Lord knows, we’ve got the room. But realistically, that’s not going to happen. Not when we fight tooth and nail with the county just to put up a sandwich sign or hold a block party.
But we could address the homeless pet issue from another angle. Why don’t we hold fundraisers to offer free spaying and neutering . The success of spaying and neutering programs nationwide, according to Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, has reduced the number of euthanized animals over the past several years by 17%. And this is during a recession.
Even from a fiscal perspective, it makes sense. Surely kicking in the dollars to prevent unwanted pets is less expensive than saving them, and often, ultimately, killing them.
And, since Baldwin Park will probably continue as our designated shelter, we should discuss ways to improve what we’ve got -- support the adoption programs and help upgrade the 50-year old facility.
So back to Petey. Instead of just a face in the crowd, he's living large at the Pasadena Humane Society, popular with the volunteers and staff until Mr or Ms Right comes along. Thanks to his inherent good manners (he sits and cuddles on command, no aggression, gets along well with other dogs), Petey has earned the coveted PHS Blue Dot, signifying practically perfect. Hillary Gatlin, PHS Community Relations Associate, says Petey is now going for his Blue Ribbon. I’m not certain what that means, but perhaps it has something to do with learning ceramics or reciting Shakespeare.
Surely, up in our neck of the woods, we could give a better account of ourselves. Do more for all the Peteys that land on the north side of Woodbury. Feel a little more confident that when we save a dog from the streets, we’ve actually done him a favor.