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Animal shelters swamped after holiday

By Aaron Blevins, 7/11/2013

Fireworks spark increase in shelters’ populations


Although the Fourth of July may be a celebration of independence for American citizens, that is not the case for American pets, some of which are susceptible to running away due to the explosive sights and sounds.

This terrier mix was among the dogs that Best Friends Animal Society rescued from city animal shelters the week of July 4. (photo by Erik Bianchi/Best Friends Animal Society)

In fact, July is one of the busiest — if not the busiest — times of the year for area animal shelters. Los Angeles Animal Services’ shelters received 149 new dogs following the holiday, a significant decrease from 2012 (309 dogs) and 2011 (295).

Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) has been “extremely busy,” said Marc Peralta, the executive director of the organization’s adoption center in Mission Hills. To accommodate, BFAS waived the fee for adoptions the weekend before the holiday, and approximately 100 animals were adopted.

“It’s a lot of very scary and very loud and very unfamiliar sensory things going on with the animals all at once,” Peralta said regarding animals’ reaction to fireworks. In previous years, he has actually slept in the bathroom with his dog on the Fourth of July. “It was bad — like break through doors kind of bad.”

Not only have shelters seen an increase in new animals over the last week, it is the middle of “kitten season,” Peralta said.

“[There] just seems to be a huge influx of intake during this time of year,” he added.

With shelters taxed for both space and resources, the public can help in a variety of ways. Peralta said shelters could “really utilize” individuals who are willing to be foster parents for pets for a couple weeks. Of course, shelters could also benefit from additional pet adoptions, he said.

“That’s the perfect time to go to the shelters because they’re overflowing,” Peralta said.

Donations are always helpful, as are volunteers. Peralta said many BFAS volunteers on July 4 stayed all night to calm and relax the animals, which were “just terrified.” In addition to the organization’s overnight staff, the volunteers kept an eye on BFAS’ 200 dogs and cats, ensuring that the animals did not injure themselves seeking to escape their crates.

Peralta said the increase of shelter animals can be costly, especially if the animals are in need of medical care. However, the issue is more serious than that, he said.

“It’s more than financial,” Peralta added. “It’s the influx of intake that could eventually cause animals to lose their lives.”

If a shelter has 250 animals and only 200 kennels, the staff will be forced to make a decision on 50 animals’ lives, he said.

“That’s exactly how it works,” Peralta said. “The city shelters are going to do the best they can to make a bad decision the best bad decision. …Ultimately, they’re going to have to resort to killing animals.”

He said those that perish will likely be “perfectly good, adoptable” animals. So, BFAS is striving to spread the word about the potentially dire fate of those in shelters during the summer months, Peralta said.

However, in certain parts of the city, the Fourth of July celebration persists, as leftover home fireworks, which are illegal, continue to explode in the sky. Peralta suggested “tucking the animal away” and keeping it in a safe spot.

The Humane Society of the United States recommends turning on a radio or TV to block the noises. Veterinarians can also recommend medications and techniques to help alleviate the fear of fireworks.

Peralta said the issue of pets running away on the Fourth of July is not confined to Southern California. He said he has worked with animals in several states across the country.

“It’s that way everywhere,” Peralta added.

Los Angeles Animal Services representatives did not return additional requests for comment.

To help the cause, visit bfla.bestfriends.org or www.laanimalservices.com.



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