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Dog rescued from L.A. River still unclaimed in Downey animal shelter; LAFD defends rescue effort


Vernon, the lucky dog rescued from the raging L.A. River last week, continues to captivate.  The shepherd-type dog remains at the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority shelter in Downey today, where he's being monitored for signs of rabies after biting his rescuer, Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter Joe St. Georges. 

St. Georges, who told reporters last week that he bore no ill will toward the dog for biting him, suffered a fractured thumb and lost a fingernail during the daring rescue that was broadcast live on Friday.  "He's cold, he's wet, he's scared, and then here's this stranger jumping on his back for all intents and purposes, and he did what dogs do," he told the Associated Press after his release from County USC Medical Center.

Since Vernon was not microchipped and wasn't wearing an ID tag, animal control officers have been unable to locate his owner. If he hasn't been reclaimed by the end of the 10-day quarantine period, he'll be placed up for adoption at SEAACA.  Shelter staff already have "a mile-long list of people who want him," Aaron Reyes, SEAACA's director of operations, told the Associated Press. 

In the meantime, the dog, who's believed to be about 4 years old, is receiving excellent care and seems far more relaxed than he did during his harrowing experience in the river. "He's really lovable," animal control officer Justin Guzman told our sister blog, L.A. Now. "He's appreciating all the attention he's getting here."

Meanwhile, the LAFD is defending itself from some who argue that its valuable resources were wasted by rescuing a dog.  Although at least 50 firefighters responded to the scene, the action was necessary, St. Georges said, in part because the agency worried that a civilian would attempt to rescue the dog if the fire department didn't. And the rescue would have been even more dangerous for an untrained person, who could easily have been injured far more severely than St. Georges was. 

"You're not going to please everybody. There's always 10 percent, they either don't like animals or think we are wasting taxpayer money," Capt. Steve Ruda told the Associated Press.

-- Lindsay Barnett

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Photo: Vernon before he was rescued by St. Georges on Jan. 22.  Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (8)

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A trapped and terrified animal. An innocent life worth saving. A humane firefighter who understands the animal's fear. A list of people waiting to adopt this poor dog. Everything that has happened in this story - from the rescue to those waiting to care for Vernon - is positive and good.
My tax money was WELL-SPENT.

I think it was heroic for the firemen to rescue that dog and anyone who disputes the value of such an act had better not find themselves in a situation where another person needs to contemplate whether or not to help them!

Ok....for those complaining about the LAFD wasting resources in rescuing a dog, dont you all think that our tax money is wasted keeping criminals in jail? I am sure that plenty of those monies we are taxed are spent on REAL frivolous things that we dont even hear about, so get a life! Have a heart, and honestly, I want my tax dollars going to rescuing a dog!!!!

I'm so proud of our firefighters and all the people who cared. This is telling of our society. All very good - and taxes well spent! Thank you.

Anyone who thinks this is a waste of resources ought to be chucked in the river.

I just don't understand who or why people are against this. First of all they have a logical reason for it, if they hadn't then someone (like me) would have jumped in to rescue the dog. Second, the alternative of just "getting rid of the dog" would have angered more than the rescue, not to mention what kind of message that would send. And third, it's a life and aren't firemen there to save lives. There is no "rule" or "law" or anything that says it must be a human life. They carry around oxygen masks for cats and dogs trapped in a fire. So I am still yet to see the issue that people are having here. And with the tax money, how much did it really cost? Would these people rather the firemen sitting around the firehouse playing poker and getting paid or out rescuing this puppy and actually working for their pay. I'm sure if there had been a house or business on fire that would have required them to be there, they would have sent the appropriate number of trucks to deal with that issue.

The cost is absolutely justified. If not, where do we draw the line. One could argue that 1 million bucks spent to save one human being could feed or help many people people as well.

I dont understand why people are so upset over this. I think this is awesome. Joe St.george and all the people involved in the rescue are HEROS in my book. Every year you have people that have less common sense then a chicken , that end up in the river and our fire fighters risk their lives to get them out and no one complains about that.

Anyone that lives in CA for amount of time know, when it rains DO NOT go in the river, the news tells people every year that don't have enough common sense to know better.... STAY OUT OF THE RIVER WHEN IT RAINS!!!!!


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