Two women walk into the animal shelter. It sounds like the beginning of a joke but what happened is far from funny. They were there to “rescue” one of the three dogs (and four rabbits) that we had recently been transferred in from the Petaluma shelter. I didn’t recognize either of the women so asked some questions about which rescue they were with and how they knew about Cooper (we had posted some pictures of this chubby boy on our Instagram account but he wasn’t in adoptions yet). Their reaction was far from pleasant. You would think they would expect to show some credentials and would be indignant if we just handed them the dog without verifying the agency!
It’s so sad when animal groups can’t work together for the benefit of the animals we claim to care about. Sometimes personalities and politics get in the way. Sonoma County is a very competitive area with six animal shelters and dozens of rescues (more popping up every day) competing for adoption homes, volunteers, donations, Facebook likes and publicity. Sadly, some groups use the last two to finger point and wave the “no kill” banner in everyone’s face. They twist the truth and facts to their own benefit and end up hurting other animal organizations – which hurts the animals in their care.
So what was the story about Cooper? He came to the Petaluma Shelter when his owner passed away. We had offered to take some animals from them since we had the space and they had just brought a bunch down from the Paradise area. Cooper, other than being obese, seemed friendly enough so he was one of the dogs we took. He was not up for adoption while waiting for his official temperament test and was settling into the shelter, getting bathed, vet checked (being treated for an ear infection) and walked several times a day by our staff and volunteers to help him lose weight. At no time was he at risk of being euthanized. Check our Instagram page for pictures of Cooper and the care we were giving him. He was a love and we knew we wouldn’t have a problem finding him a good home!
When we heard the women were from the Petaluma group whose contract for running the shelter had not been renewed, we contacted the director now running the Petaluma shelter and he said he would take Cooper back to take the pressure off us. There are clearly issues between the two groups and the comments flying on Facebook were accusatory and distorted and we ended up in the middle of this cat fight by virtue of just trying to help this dog!
The Rohnert Park Shelter works closely with dozens of rescue groups. We ask for a signed agreement and proof that they are a 501(c)3 organization. If it is a new group that I’m not personally familiar with, we ask other shelters for a reference to make sure the group is legitimate and not a hoarding situation or otherwise a problem. There is some vetting of the groups we work with although we don’t have the resources to personally inspect each rescue that we have an agreement with. While getting the animals out of the shelter is the goal, it does no good if they end up in a worse situation! So for their protection, and to keep your trust that we are doing right by our charges, we don’t just hand over animals to anyone who walks in our door and claims to be a rescue.
The end of the story is a happy one. Cooper went back to the Petaluma shelter and was adopted the next day. I’m hoping that everyone is sheathing their claws and the cat fight is over but the damaging posts are still out there. Just shows you really can only believe a fraction of what you read on the internet. If you ever have questions about our services or programs, please feel free to contact me directly. If you haven’t seen our shelter, please come by and look around. We are proud of our facility, staff and programs. Hope you are too!
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed. 1-6:30; Thurs.-Fri.-Sat. 1-5:30; Sun. 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.