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Animal Action League works to help Duroville's dogs

March 8, 2009 |  2:00 pm

Puppies in Duroville The 40-acre trailer park called Duroville, on the Torres Martinez reservation near the Salton Sea, is home to about 6,000 farm workers -- and hundreds of wild dogs.  The dogs pose a big problem for residents of the park, and animal rescuers are working to get a handle on the problem.  Their solution is sterilization.  Our colleague David Kelly reports on their efforts:

Inside the Animal Action League's specially outfitted RV, heavily sedated dogs lay side by side, their once hard eyes staring serenely at the ceiling. Dr. Robert Mills worked steadily in the tiny operating room, sterilizing some of the hundreds of battle-scarred dogs that roam this notorious 40-acre patch of the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation.

"This is the most dogs I have ever seen in one particular spot," said Mills, a veterinarian with the nonprofit group, which was offering free spaying and neutering. "We have volunteers who ask kids at schools in Palm Springs how many have been bitten by dogs and none raise their hands. We come out to schools here, ask the same question and every kid raises his hand."

Last year, a U.S. district judge appointed Mark Adams, a Santa Monica lawyer, to clean up Duroville.  Adams, who described himself as "the new sheriff in town," implemented measures to improve the park, including draining sewage ponds and ordering tenants to keep their dogs in their yards. 

Since then, complaints about the dogs have increased, Kelly says:

Rosa Ceja, 35, dropped out of her English-language classes because of them.

"When I go there, three times the dogs have chased me," she said. "So I don't go anymore."

Lupe Maldonado, 36, won't walk to the laundermat.

"I will only go if I can drive, because of the dogs," she said. Nearly all Duroville residents are Latino farmworkers inhabiting a congested warren of narrow roads and sagging trailers. With their yearly pay often less than $10,000, spaying and neutering pets is low on their priority list, animal advocates say.

"This is cold, hard, nasty work, but it's worth its weight in gold," Animal Action League founder Jordin Kuecks, 84, told Kelly.  She explained that her group focuses its efforts on poor and isolated areas like Duroville, where on the day of Kelly's visit, 22 dogs and six cats were spayed or neutered.

For more information, check out Kelly's story and its accompanying photo gallery.

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A Duroville resident holds two puppies.  Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times.

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