Animal Shelter Maxed Out, Open House This Saturday, Dec. 8

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

HCSO Animal Shelter Volunteer Mara Segal with adoptable dogs Woody and Simone. Photo by Jim Marlatt | Volunteer Corrdinator

Daniel Mintz

Eye Correspondent

McKINLEYVILLE – An influx of dogs at the county’s animal shelter isn’t being met with adoptions and the facility is getting overbooked.

When interviewed last week, Sgt. Kym Thompson, the Sheriff’s Office’s animal control and shelter supervisor, said 70 dogs were at the McKinleyville-based shelter, which only has room for 50. There were 40 cats being sheltered, well below a capacity of 90 but the number is steadily increasing.

Thompson said the situation isn’t unusual at this time of year, when adoptions slack due to holiday preparations and travel. Failure to spay and neuter pets results in higher abandonment rates, she continued.

Eight puppies were born at the shelter at the time of the interview. Six more puppies were recently dumped at the side of a road in the Carlotta area. Earlier in November, 13 puppies were found in a cardboard box next to a school bus stop in the Dyerville area.

Six of the puppies are up for adoption but the rest are too young and need enhanced care that volunteers are giving them. “Thank God for kind people who are willing to take puppies home and hand feed them and take care of them so they can survive,” Thompson said.

“I totally understand that it can be expensive to spay and neuter pets but for people who want to and can’t afford it, there are avenues for assistance,” she added, as the Humboldt County Spay/Neuter Network and the Humboldt Area Foundation offer vouchers for sterilizing pets.

Sometimes abandonment of pets isn’t intentional. The owners of some of the dogs at the shelter are recently homeless or destitute or have been arrested. They often don’t have family members or friends to pick up their pets.

“Some go to state prison, some are arrested on warrants outside of the county and transferred to jails in other counties,” said Thompson. “It’s not that they’re not good pet owners, it’s that they have no choice,” she continued.

One man came to the shelter for his dog but explained he only had 67 cents in his pocket. “We gave him his dog,” Thompson said. “We try and work with people and waive or reduce fees to reunite people with their pets – it’s not always a lost cause.”

She suspects the shelter is holding animals that are being sought by their owners but they haven’t looked there.

The facility has a website,, that posts photos and descriptions of incoming animals so owners can check for them online.

Thompson recommends a proactive approach – microchipping pets is inexpensive and “tags with owner information help us so much,” she said. Pets that aren’t reunited with their owners are eventually given to new ones, as the shelter has never euthanized an adoptable pet since it opened in 2004.

The shelter’s euthanasia rate is at five or six percent, Thompson said, with unadoptable feral cats accounting for much of it. By law the shelter must offer feral cats and even vicious dogs to rescue groups but if they can’t take them, they’re put down.

“But our rescue groups are wonderful and take a lot of animals that otherwise would not have a chance,” said Thompson.

Mara Segal volunteers with one of them, Redwood Pals Rescue, which has sent out an e-mail “rescue plea” along with the It’s a Dog’s Life rescue group. She was interviewed the day the plea had been launched and said there had already been an adoption response.

Segal also volunteers at the shelter, walking dogs and “working on training them to improve their quality of life.” A Redwood Pals raffle event raised money for a second playpen at the shelter, which will be installed soon, she said.

The group joins others that offer additional shelter services for animals that are injured, sick or need readying for adoption. “None of us have enough space in our homes to take care of all the dogs that need rescuing.” said Segal.

The spike of intakes at the shelter has emerged as it prepares for its annual open house event (see above).

The shelter is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

For information on spay/neuter vouchers, adoptions and volunteer opportunities, call the shelter at (707) 840-9132.

Open House Saturday, Dec. 8

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Animal Shelter hosts its annual Holiday Open House on Saturday, Dec. 8 from noon to 4 p.m. The public is invited to come to the shelter to celebrate the eighth anniversary of the Animal Shelter, which has housed more than 16,000 animals since it has been open. The shelter officially opened Dec. 22, 2004.

There will be cake, cookies and punch, and staff will provide tours of the shelter. Animals will, of course, be available for viewing and adoption. The shelter will again have Memorial Stars available, as well as raffle items. The Memorial Stars can be purchased and hung in the Animal Shelter in memory of a pet, past or present.

The proceeds from the stars and raffle items are applied to the shelter’s emergency medical fund, which is managed by Friends for Life Animal Rescue. This fund is used for the medical treatment of shelter animals with serious medical conditions that otherwise prevent them from being adopted.  Many sick and injured dogs and cats have been saved and adopted to great homes thanks to this fund.

Donations for the shelter animals are gladly accepted, and can be made to Friends for Life Animal Rescue, P.O. Box 962, Eureka CA, 95502 or

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Animal Shelter is located at 980 Lycoming Avenue, McKinleyville, CA, 95519.


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