LANCASTER – Though most Antelope Valley residents look forward to celebrating Independence Day, their pets face the risk of being displaced from their homes after being scared by fireworks.
“What we see on the 4th of July every year with all of our animal care centers is a terrible spike in the animals coming into our shelters,” said Betsey Webster, Chief Deputy Director at the LA County Department of Animal Care and Control. “We like to remind people that when animals hear these fireworks, it disorients them, and it activates their flight instinct, and they will start bolting out of yards and behaving in ways that they aren’t used to,” Webster added.
She said her department is encouraging people to provide an extra layer of security for their animals on this 4th of July by placing them inside the home or garage during firework displays and loud events.
Jeanette Portocarrero, who runs the boarding and adoption center Lost and Found Dogs in the Antelope Valley, has launched a social media forum to keep pets from filling up the Lancaster Animal Care Center on the 4th of July.
“I’m concerned about the number of pets that will be coming into the shelter on the 4th of July, and this is my attempt to avoid having to call animal control on the 4th,” said Portocarrero, who has been helping to reunite animals with their families in the Antelope Valley for the past three years.
Portocarrero is asking the public to immediately report lost or found pets on this Facebook page here. Posting pictures of the dogs or cats will ensure that they are reunited with their families as quickly as possible, Portocarrero said.
“If anyone finds a pet during the night, please hold on to it, put a picture up on the Facebook page immediately so we can reunite the pets to your home instead of all these pets overloading the shelter,” she said. “They don’t even have to go there because it’s already full… so you can imagine by the 4th of July what’s going to happen.”
Underlying the urgency to recover lost animals as soon as possible is the alarming realization that Lancaster Animal Shelter is already overburdened with dogs, cats and other animals.
According to Webster, the Lancaster Animal Care Center receives nearly 100 animals a day “when it’s not the 4th of July.”
The Lancaster shelter had 283 dogs, 165 cats, 9 birds, and 12 livestock, as of close of business on Monday, Webster told The AV Times.
When asked how long an animal has at a county shelter before it is euthanized, Webster said “times for animals vary in terms of the legal time we have to hold it before it can be adopted or before it can be euthanized.”
She said the shelter will hold an animal longer if it has identification.
“We’ll contact the owner to come and get their pet,” Webster said. “If it doesn’t have identification, there is a shorter holding period for that animal.”
However, Webster stressed that “adoptable animals” are not euthanized; rather, the shelter will attempt to find homes for them.
Portocarrero, who has helped to move thousands of dogs out of the shelter and into homes over the years, expressed deep concern over the shelter’s adoption program facing yet another burden with the upcoming 4th of July holiday.
Complicating the scenario is the arrest of a Rosamond woman who was a key player in moving dogs and cats out of the Lancaster shelter to relieve congestion.
Christina Patz of Rosamond was arrested at her home on Friday (June 27) and booked on “90 initial felony charges of cruelty to an animal,” according to a report by Bakersfield’s KGET TV 17. Officers were called to the Rosamond residence on reports of unsanitary conditions and an illegal kennel, and Kern County animal control officers “discovered 64 dead cats, and 155 felines living in inhumane conditions.”
Though the case is still under investigation, cats from the residence were taken to several Kern County Animal Services’ shelters for medical treatment, 23 of which were required to be euthanized.
“Everybody is just in shock because she is the bloodline in rescuing and saving these pets because so many rescuers use her to get those animals out of there,” Portocarrero told The AV Times, describing Patz as the “most active puller at the Lancaster shelter.”
A “puller” is an individual who is authorized by a 501(c)-registered rescue group to remove adoptable animals from a county shelter to arrange for an adoption or foster placement of the animal.
Despite allegations of animal negligence against Patz, her role as a high-volume animal “puller” in the Antelope Valley has helped to fight the congestion of animals at the Lancaster shelter, Portocarrero said.
“We would literally pull several dozen a day,” Portocarrero said. “So with the two pullers we still have, they’re not of the same caliber of this woman – like I said, we were shipping dogs out by the busload, finding them good homes. These other ladies can only do one or two at a time.”
Though Webster was not aware of Patz’s arrest, she said that no other adoption partners have been suspended due to this incident, emphasizing how much the county shelter relies on its animal pullers.
“As you can see, it’s one of our most successful methods of having animals leave alive. And so we really respect their role in this and partner really close with them,” Webster said.
Lancaster Animal Care Center Manager Sheri Koenig said that both the approaching holiday impact on family pets and the arrest of Patz have put animal care personnel in a precarious position.
“Yes, it is definitely hard for the shelter to keep up with arranging a lot of adoptions of the animals that come into the shelter,” Koenig said. “But we’re doing a lot to counteract the current situation. We will work to get additional rescues involved, increase outreach events to the community, as well as more transports of animals from our shelter to others.”
Webster told The AV Times that 244 dogs went to rescue groups from the Lancaster shelter in June, while 186 dogs were adopted, and 64 were returned to their owners.
Webster also informed The AV Times that the Lancaster Animal Care Center will receive a new call center for the Antelope Valley within the next month. She said the animal care center will be hiring a few call takers for the communications center. In addition, three animal control officers will be added to the Lancaster shelter.
The Lancaster Animal Care Center is located at 5210 W. Ave. I., Lancaster, Ca. 93536. For more information, call 661-940-4191 or visit www.facebook.com/CountyofLALancasterAnimalCareCenter.
For more information on Portocarrero’s boarding and adoption center, visit her Facebook forum page at www.facebook.com/groups/lafdav. To post a picture of a local lost or found animal during the 4th of July holiday period, visit www.facebook.com/lostonthe4thofjuly.