The 20-Mile Trip to Altadena's Animal Shelter

Ask yourself before your read: do you even know where it is?

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.

Susan Campisi July 13, 2011 at 10:58 PM
Veronica, you always have facts and stories that kick you in the gut. That's heartwrenching what's happening at the Riverside shelter - tax dollars going to these death machines. It's shameful. These comments give me hope for animals in our community. Let's get together and put some of these great ideas into action. I like the idea of a shelter but that's a long-term goal and there's a lot we can do in the short-term. Please email if you're interested in connecting: susancampisi@gmail.com
Petrea Burchard July 14, 2011 at 01:55 AM
The statistics are heartbreaking but as Karin says, that doesn't mean people have to be complicit. Dan makes a good point: these things take a lot of time. But persistence and patience will pay off. Thanks for a great article and great discussion.
veronica Ferrantelli July 14, 2011 at 02:01 AM
My dear friend it is not the shelter.....It is the people who live in the surrounding communities. The people who think it is fun to have puppies at home. People who make money off selling puppies. People who do not S/N their pets. People who do not have regard for an animals life. These are outrageous number of innocent animals being killed. Also it is because it is the week of July 4th, a lot of dog get scared and run for cover. I wonder where are all their owners. They belonged to someone. Yet it is still the community at fault for the disregard. It is like your house hold trash. When I am done I put my trash to the curb....Where does it go?....Who knows? Who cares? Out of site, Out of Mind.
Carol Lachata July 14, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Lovely idea and consciousness-raising article Karen! So many animals suffer needlessly at the hands of humans. I've been to the Baldwin Park facility, and while the young man I dealt with there seemed to sincerely care about animals, indeed, it is a haul from our foothills, which makes it especially difficult for seniors (or those that don't have a car or computer) to make the trek. I adopted my babies from the Pasadena Humane Society and support it with donations of money, blankets, my mother's old fur coat, towels etc. I would be happy to have a local facility here in Altadena and would support one. Perhaps contracting with the Pasadena Humane Society could be put to a vote, such as a levying a small amount per year per household, much the way the Library is funded (say, $100,000, divided by the number of Altadena households--does anyone know this figure?). Let's get this great idea rolling.
Susan Carrier July 15, 2011 at 03:05 PM
I could deal with the inconvenience of driving to Baldwin Park if I didn't believe that I was giving an animal the death penalty for being LIA (lost in Altadena).


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