From the Trenches


COVID-19 Crunch: When the Lockdown Became a Lockout, Part I

Everyone is feeling the effects of the pandemic. No one has been left untouched. It brings out the best in people and, at times, the worst, as we all struggle with fear, grief, isolation, uncertainty, economic challenges, lost opportunities and new responsibilities.

For companion animals down on their luck, it brings a new and dangerous reality. While municipal shelters sort the sometimes-conflicting pressures of animal care, public health, public opinion, and the safety of their employees, it is generally those animals for whom the shelter was the last chance of refuge who lose the most, as they are increasingly locked out. It brings to mind the question, what is the purpose of an animal shelter?

This smoky beauty is one of three rescued from the hardscrabble life of a feral, just in the nick of time.

At the start of our state’s stay-at-home order, shelter populations dwindled as caring Californians stepped up in droves to foster homeless pets. It was a heartening development, and we all hope that many of these quarantine caregivers will choose to permanently adopt, and/or continue fostering in the future. Unfortunately, this is only a small part of the story

Aside from their successful pleas for more foster homes, how have shelters responded to pandemic? Policies vary by facility, but all have had to cut services and staff, and restrict access. Most still allow adoptions and redemptions by appointment, though the animals may go out intact for the time being, as spay/neuter services have generally been suspended. This alone is concerning, occurring as it has during the feline breeding season, and we will deal with the effects for years to come. The most drastic, and deadly, reduction in services, however, has been to animals lost or living on the streets, and those about to lose their homes. For them, the lockdown is now a lockout. Unless dangerous, or gravely injured or ill, these unfortunate souls are not welcome at the “shelters.”

Many rescues and foster homes are at peak capacity. Brave Heart looks a little bewildered by the row of “porta-potties” set out for his houseguests.

“Leave them where you found them,” is the most common shelter response to citizens calling about stray animals. One family found two cats and twelve kittens near their home in Riverside. They took them to the shelter on Van Buren, and were told to release them in a field nearby. (Upon learning of this, we asked them to please go back to the field and get them. They were only able to find three of the original twelve kittens. We fear hawks and coyotes had better luck.) One of our field volunteers, J, attempted to help a family needing to surrender a pair of house rabbits to the Orange County Shelter.

Outside the locked shelter door she noticed two cardboard boxes, taped shut and sitting in the sun. One contained a single kitten, the other a pair. They had been left without ringing the shelter bell that would have notified the staff. J was able to arrange fostering for one through the shelter that day, but had to care for the other two in her own home over the weekend until foster arrangements could be made. The shelter admitted that had J not rung the bell, the kittens would likely not have been discovered in time to save them. As for the original reason for J’s visit, though the shelter only had two or three rabbits at the time, they would not accept these, and instructed her to release them in a park. These were not wild rabbits. Abandoning them in a park would be cruel, and illegal. (The family was able to keep them a bit longer, so they are safe…for the moment.)

Domestic rabbits do not have the survival skills or disease resistance of their wild cousins and should never be released into the wild.

We receive multiple calls daily about shelters turning away animals, telling good Samaritans to leave them where they found them and that they’ll probably find their way home, and simply refusing to consider taking in the pets of those who can no longer care for them. A frequent excuse is that shelter staff is limited right now, and they cannot properly care for more animals. Why is the staff so limited when this is an essential service? With the public only entering by appointment, and areas of access restricted, staff can safely feed and clean. The additional cage space left by so many animals being adopted or going into foster homes is the obvious place to house those newly homeless. In addition, spay/neuter surgeries were temporarily suspended as nonessential. In the shelter, genders can be separated until surgeries can be safely resumed. Leaving homeless pets at large is not only inhumane and a public nuisance, it also greatly compounds the problem as those that survive abandonment and neglect continue breeding.

In our next post, we will explore some of the reasons behind this failure, the organizations promoting such betrayal, and the chilling talk of making lockout policies permanent.

Meanwhile, think about this: California was locked down on March 19. Momma cats turned away from the shelter with their litters in March are likely weaning a second litter by now, perhaps already expecting a third. And in just a few more days, female kittens born during the first week of lockdown will be four months old, and potentially able to have kittens themselves.


COVID19 Displaces Cats

The COVID19 pandemic has affected us all. It is heartening to see how so many have stepped up and made changes to protect the health and safety of our communities. One change we had to make was to temporarily suspend our in-store cat adoption program. This allows us to comply with the governor’s mandate to stay at home, and allows our cat care volunteers to stay home as well. The cats have been moved to temporary foster homes, and are safe, but need permanent homes now more than ever.  Below are pictures and descriptions of the cats and kittens displaced by the stay-at-home order. Fostering or adopting at this critical time would help them, and us, more than ever.  


Melody is a female Pastel Calico/Siamese with beautiful blue eyes. She is very loving with people, selective about cats–some she loves, others not so much. 





Sir Buddy is a short-haired tabby and white male. He showed up at the home of one of our volunteers and stole her heart. She took him in but could not keep him, so here he is. This noble boy is extremely loving and friendly, and longs for human companionship. UPDATE: ADOPTED!!! 





Tommy is a short-haired orange male Tabby (90% of orange cats are male). There is something about these orange toms–people who have had them before just swear by their intelligence and charm. Tommy upholds that reputation, getting along well with the other cats and displaying great affection towards people.



Merlot is a gorgeous Calico, and like all Calicos, is female. Calicos are try-colored with black or gray, white, and orange or tan. Merlot is mostly white, with multicolor markings on her face and back. She is very friendly, and would make a wonderful family cat.





Mabel is a young female Tabby. She is an exceedingly sweet and loving kitten, and would make a great addition to any loving family. We don’t know, in this picture, if she was asleep, or just does not like having her picture taken.


Jasper is a wonderful, very affectionate young male Tabby. His markings make us think he might be part Bengal, but he has the disposition of a dedicated homebody. He gets along well with other cats and loves people.







Judy is a short haired gray and white Tabby with an overall elegant appearance. She likes people. She is not particularly interested in other cats, but she will be polite with them once acquainted. UPDATE: ADOPTED!









Callie is a medium-haired Calico/Tabby (also known as a Torbie) with beautiful markings. She is stunning, and apparently someone told her so, because her personality is totally diva. She does not like other (lesser) cats, but would shine on her own. We do not recommend her for a home with small children. UPDATE: ADOPTED!





Bart is a short-haired brown male tabby. He is amiable and easy to love, but may need to wait for his new home as he is almost due for a booster shot. The logistics could be challenging during this pandemic.



Apollo is a wonderful short-haired Classic American Tabby. He gets along well with other cats, and is very affectionate with his caregivers. You can’t go wrong with the classics! 




We at Pet Assistance sincerely hope everyone reading this is staying safe and healthy, and has enjoyed viewing our showcase of exceptional adoptables. Each of these kitties has been spayed or neutered, tested for leukemia and feline aids, vaccinated, microchipped, checked for parasites and treated as needed. All of these services are included in the adoption fee of $125, reduced if you adopt more than one. If one of them “spoke to you” and you are interested in opening your heart and your home, please contact us, and we will endeavor to create a safe adoption experience.

For quickest response to adoption questions during these unusual times please call: (562) 673-2845, or email and request an application.



The No Kill Controversy

There is a schism in the animal welfare community concerning the concept of “no kill.” While the elimination of the need to euthanize animals for want of homes has long been a goal of the humane movement, the more recent No Kill movement, as described by Nathan Winograd and organizations such as No Kill Advocacy Center, represent distinct priorities and assumptions that are not necessarily in the best interest of the animals.

We are deeply concerned that the public is being misled, and that animals are being harmed. After careful consideration and much research on the topic, both in the field and through various media sources, we are dedicating ourselves to providing clear information on what the “no kill” movement really is, and what it means to animals and the people who love them.

We will post more detail and resources in the next few days, but the link below provides an excellent overview:

We cannot adopt, warehouse or rescue our way out of dog & cat overpopulation!


The “No Kill” Movement’s Overemphasis on Euthanasia Stats Puts Animals at Risk

The “no kill” movement’s insistence on making euthanasia statistics the supreme measure of an animal shelter’s worth is misguided and dangerous, and has yielded some inhumane consequences. Under extreme pressure to lower euthanasia numbers, shelters have begun turning away owners seeking to surrender pets, or have drastically raised turn-in fees. This has led to an increase in animals simply abandoned in parks or on the streets. Callers on our hotline have even reported being told to release strays back where they found them.

On the adoption side, pressure to increase live release rates leads to lowering standards. Screening is relaxed. Animals are given away for free or at very low cost, as if valueless. Desperate to improve their numbers, shelter staffs sometimes ignore obvious warning signs of animal hoarders posing as rescuers, and release pets to lives of immeasurable suffering and neglect.

“Community Cat” programs, where unowned cats are sterilized and returned to where they were found, may make sense in areas where they are welcomed by residents and have people committed to feeding them and providing medical care when necessary. Without these accommodations, this type of program is simply abandonment.

Yes, shelters can, and should, do everything possible to find good homes for their charges, to educate the public on animal issues, to provide a safe environment and proper care to each animal that comes to them, to protect them from suffering. These things are within their power.

It is not, however, within their power to control how many animals will show up at their door each day, week, month and year, or the condition they will be in when they do. The societal changes needed to create a community where every companion animal born is valued and cared for take time, but they are happening. Focusing on enforcement of Long Beach’s progressive spay and neuter laws, providing affordable pet sterilization, and increasing humane education efforts at every level are key. Meanwhile, it is wise to remember that there are fates far worse than euthanasia.


PAF to Expand Humane Education Efforts

Earlier this year, Pet Assistance Foundation hosted a meeting of humane educators from three Southern California counties to discuss forwarding statewide K-12 humane education. After three productive hours spent sharing information, experiences, observations and ideas, participants were inspired and reluctant to leave. PAF was encouraged by the level of interest, and is accessing and evaluating resources from Academy of Prosocial Learning, HEART (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers), Institute for Humane Education, Maddie’s Fund, and Red Rover.

Background: In May of 2016, the California Legislature adopted House Resolution-28, which confirms support of Sections 233.5 (part of the Hate Violence Prevention Act) and Section 60042 of the Education Code and their requirement of instruction in the human treatment of animals in K-12 education. The resolution states many sound reasons for this action, including recognition of the correlation between childhood animal cruelty and interpersonal violence in adulthood; the goal of humane education to develop caring, responsible citizens by teaching empathy, compassion, and respect for all living beings; and the chance to reduce the suffering of both wild and domestic animals by addressing deficiencies in children’s understanding of the role of animals in nature and people’s lives.

Additionally, a key factor in the legislation’s decision to bring attention to humane education was the existence of reputable nonprofit organizations “working to implement humane education programs through in-classroom presentations, teacher training, and the provision of relevant resources, and [that] these organizations could assist California schools in complying with the Educations Code’s humane education provisions without burdening school budgets”.

Currently, teachers are not given any specific guidelines or lesson plans when designing a Humane Education program. PAF has long seen a need, and now sees increased opportunity, to assist our community in addressing the need for engaging and inspiring human education in our schools.


Wendy Aragon, President, Pet Assistance Foundation

Robert J. Aragon, Chairman, Pet Assistance Foundation

Judith Crumpton, Humane Educator, Long Beach

Leslie Davies, Humane Educator, Spay Neuter Action Project, San Diego

Betsy Denhart, Director of Communications and Special Projects, Pet Assistance Foundation

Mary Finley, former South Bay Branch Chair, Pet Assistance Foundation

Lynn Hildebrand, Humane Educator, Humane Society of San Bernardino Valley

Pictured above: Meeting attendees display painted stars from Stars of Hope, reflecting the power and promise of humane education: hope, strength, respect, critical thought, compassion and empathy. L. to R., Mary Finley, Leslie Davies, Betsy Denhart, Wendy Aragon, Judith Crumpton, Lynn Hildebrand.



How Pet Assistance Helped AB 485 Slam California’s Door on Puppy Mills



When PAF learned that Judie Mancuso, president and founder of Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL), had persuaded California State Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell to author a bill addressing the sale of factory bred pets and promoting shelter pet adoption, PAF immediately saw its significance, and offered to do all it could to help SCIL promote State Assembly Bill 485, the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act. In brief, AB 485 will prohibit every pet store in the state from selling companion animals that do not come from rescues or shelters.

SCIL was grateful for our help. They are a smaller humane organization, and faced the well-funded opposition of national groups such at the American Kennel Club and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. Major humane organizations such as ASPCA, HSUS and Best Friends saw the merit of the bill, but did not believe the votes were there to pass it, and so initially withheld their support. PAF recognized Judie Mancuso’s talent and superior leadership skills, and knew well what could be accomplished through the synergy of true animal advocates working together.

Here’s what PAF did to support AB 485:

– We helped coordinate efforts to collect letters of endorsement from the 35 municipalities with similar ordinances already    in place, illustrating for the senators that this legislation works.
– PAF directors participated in numerous conference calls and strategy meetings throughout the legislative process.
– We organized, managed, and funded a phone-bank operation to contact all 1,200 pet-related retail businesses in California, then created spreadsheets by district, to show individual legislators how this bill would affect their constituents.
– We sent PAF representatives to speak at important Assembly and Senate committee meetings.
– The PAF phone bank then solicited letters of support from humane organizations throughout the state.
– We sent mystery shoppers to local pet stores, seeking information we could use should pet storeowners appear at the next committee meeting, and uncovering numerous code violations, unhealthy puppies, and shifty sales tactics in the process.
– We used social media to generate phone calls of support from concerned citizens, and invite organizations and individuals to support the bill in person at the committee hearing.
-Through social media and a special edition of our newsletter, we solicited support for SCIL and phone calls and emails to Governor Brown.

Each time the bill passed another hurdle, we rejoiced briefly, then focused on the next. The Assembly victory was sweet, with strong bi-partisan support, but various committees and suggested amendments had us biting our nails. By July, the large humane societies began to take notice of our progress, and HSUS, ASPCA and Best Friends Animal Society added their names to the list of supporters. August was quiet, but September brought a sensational Senate victory–a nearly unanimous vote in favor of passing AB 485. It was beginning to seem possible. Just one more step. Governor Brown had until October 15 to either sign or veto all pending legislation. Late in the afternoon of Friday, October 13, we knew success! Despite a crushing workload and devastating fires in Northern California, Governor Brown found time for the animals, and signed AB 485 into law.

We are grateful to our loyal supporters that we were able to play an important role in this groundbreaking legislation. Your donations made it possible, and we hope you feel good knowing your generosity helped make AB 485, the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act (and the beginning of the end of kitten, bunny and puppy mills) a reality. We hope you will trust us with your continued support–there’s so much more to do!


Assemblymember O’Donnell Introduces Life-Saving Legislation Curtailing Puppy and Kitten Mills


(SACRAMENTO) – Today, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D – Long Beach) introduced AB 485, which will help put an end to the inhumane puppy and kitten mills responsible for unhealthy animals and animal overpopulation. The bill’s introduction coincides with Responsible Pet Owner Month, and promotes responsible pet purchases by prohibiting local pet stores in California from selling dogs, cats and rabbits obtained through substandard commercial breeding facilities.

“Inhumane breeding facilities are mass-producing animals for sale to the public, even as overcrowded shelters euthanize millions of dogs and cats each year,” said Assemblymember O’Donnell. “AB 485 celebrates responsible pet ownership by supporting access to rescues and pet adoptions.”

The bill’s sponsor, Social Compassion In Legislation (SCIL), is a leading California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to finding solutions for the welfare, protection, and rights of animals. SCIL was instrumental in the successful passage of a similar local ordinance, which the City of Los Angeles enacted in 2012.

“With the introduction of this new bill, thousands of shelter and rescued animals will have a chance of finding their forever homes by getting out of the shelters and into store fronts,” said Judie Mancuso, President of Social Compassion in Legislation. “As California taxpayers, we spend over a quarter of a billion dollars annually to house and kill animals. We need to implement solutions and not settle for status quo for one more year.”

The bill now awaits referral to its first policy committee.

Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell represents the 70th Assembly District which includes Long Beach, Signal Hill,
San Pedro and Catalina Island.

puppymill AB 485


Urgent Action Alert for Humane Education Support!




Letters must be received by close of business March 31, 2016

Please email your support letter to:

HR 28 Humane Education (Dababneh)HR 28 was introduced because:
Compliance with Education Code provisions should include educating students on the principles of kindness and respect for animals and observance of laws, regulations, and policies pertaining to the humane treatment of animals, including wildlife and its environment Read More


PAF Responds to Shelter’s Need for Water

Last summer, during record high temperatures in Southern California, the City of San Bernardino animal shelter experienced an interruption in water service. Volunteers were quick to react, alerting a network of supporters via Facebook. Luckily, service was quickly restored, but what if that had not been possible? Read More


We Are Homeless, Not Worthless

We are deeply concerned about the recent trend of drastically discounting shelter animals, or simply giving them away. While we see the benefit of drawing attention to animals in need of homes, and appreciate that these policies result in some animals finding good families, there are dangerous flaws in this approach. Our concerns are for both the animals themselves, and the effects these increasingly frequent practices may have on adoption rates over time. Read More


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