Shelter dogs travel from California to Canada to find new homes thanks to Canadian philanthropist
LOS ANGELES — Life after doggy death row was just a three-hour jet ride away for 60 pooches flown to Canada on Friday for adoption north of the border.
Canadian philanthropist Jan Folk watched as the small dogs were loaded into her private, 11-seat Gulfstream III headed for Edmonton, Alberta, where she said all of them would find new homes within three weeks. There will be a long line of people at the shelter early Monday, she said.
Thirty terriers, cockapoos, Yorkies, Chihuahuas, bichons and other breeds from the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in Downey took off from Long Beach Airport, along with 30 small dogs from the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Fresno.
The Downey dogs were all unclaimed, unchipped and untagged and had been at the shelter just south of Los Angeles between 13 and 30 days, Southest Area Animal Control Authority director of operations, Aaron Reyes, said.
They were literally on doggy death row.
"We are only mandated to keep them for three days per state law," Reyes said. "We hang on because we know these little cuties are a hot item somewhere. These are not feral dogs. They are fluffy little cute things that are trained. It's mind-blowing that dogs so adorable can sit in an animal shelter and not be claimed or adopted."
Folk, who has a 10-year-old chocolate Lab named Molly, has sponsored four freedom flights in the last year, so she has now taken 312 small dogs to Edmonton, where she sits on the board of the humane society.
While Folk lives in Canada, she has a boat in Huntington Beach. "I've had dogs since I was 7 years old. I am absolutely crazy about dogs. They are the one thing that can make me smile in a day."
Because she was spending time in California, Folk said she figured, "I might as well save some dogs."
Folk said she sold her two Canadian companies -- National Home Warranty and J. Folk and Associates -- a few years ago.
She wouldn't reveal the amount of money she's spent on the international dog flights, except to say "it's pretty substantial." She is looking for a partner so she can sponsor more flights.
"They don't have to go to Canada. I'd fly them to New York, as long as they go somewhere and get adopted," she said.
Hundreds of California dogs have been flown to New York and other eastern U.S. cities where -- like Edmonton -- there is a severe shortage of small dogs.
Unfortunately, 30 dogs barely made a dent in the dog population at the Downey shelter, which is full with 200 dogs, Reyes said.
In February, Folk took 114 dogs from Fresno to Canada. That is how many dogs the Fresno shelter alone will euthanize in a day, she said.
RELATED ANIMAL RESCUE STORIES:
California animal shelters' plague: Not a rain of frogs, but a rain of Chihuahuas
Local groups launch Project Flying Chihuahua to transport little dogs to new adoptive homes
-- Sue Manning, Associated Press
Photo: Dogs are loaded onto Folk's plane at the Long Beach airport. Credit: Aaron Reyes / Associated Press