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.

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