L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Category: Adopt-a-Pet

Former dogfighting 'bait dog' escapes euthanasia at Southern California animal shelter, seeks new home


A German shepherd who survived life as a "bait dog" for a dogfighting operation before being abandoned on the streets of Norwalk, then narrowly avoided being euthanized at a Los Angeles County animal shelter, has been rescued and is now in the market for a new home.

The dog's appearance told his story: He bore numerous scars, bite wounds not yet healed and, most shocking of all, ears that had been crudely cut off and allowed to heal without the aid of veterinary care. He had ailments to boot: Infections of the skin and ear canals, flea dermatitis and arthritis.

His gentle temperament stood in stark contrast to the horrors he'd obviously endured, and shelter staff and volunteers quickly warmed to the dog, whom they named Luke. When he was scheduled to be euthanized, volunteers went into high gear to find an adopter or a nonprofit rescue group that would take him. One group, Coastal German Shepherd Rescue, came through.

Luke, now called Phoenix (as in, "rises from the ashes") by his rescuers, is now receiving the veterinary care he needs and enjoying life in his foster home. "Phoenix cuddled with an orphan kitten and made friends with a bouncy terrier pup," reads an update on Coastal German Shepherd Rescue's website. "There is no other word to describe him, except amazing!"

Phoenix will be adopted through Coastal German Shepherd Rescue, and the group is also accepting donations via PayPal to help with his extensive veterinary bills. Learn more about him and see video at our sister site, KTLA.com.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A screen grab from KTLA video shows Phoenix's crudely cropped ears. Credit: KTLA

Adopt-a-Pet: Five great dogs and cats waiting for new homes at Southern California shelters

SallyAs the weekend approaches, potential pet adopters may be contemplating a trip to a shelter or adoption agency to meet their new best friend.

With the aid of some local shelter staff, volunteers and rescuers, we've assembled a short list of some of the pets looking for homes in the L.A. area. Of course, there are far too many wonderful animals to list!

For starters, Sally (ID# A4145963), right, found herself at the Baldwin Park animal shelter when her former owner decided to surrender her there on June 22. She's about a year old and has one of the cutest, scruffiest terrier faces we've ever seen -- we just can't over that single pointy ear!

Volunteers describe Sally as sweet-tempered and good with both people and other dogs. See video of her in action or meet her in person at the Baldwin Park shelter, 4275 N. Elton in Baldwin Park.

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'Biggest Loser' trainer Bob Harper urges you to get off the couch, adopt


Talk about a lucky dog.

"The Biggest Loser" trainer Bob Harper has a new furry, four-legged friend: Karl. He's named after the designer Karl Lagerfeld and came to Harper fully housebroken from Animal Advocates Alliance in Baldwin Park. Harper said he hopes everyone will bypass "puppy mills" and go to pounds and rescue centers instead to find their own pet. Read more at The Times' fashion blog, All The Rage.

Karl probably did not recognize Harper from TV, but the black-and-white pup has hit the doggie jackpot.

Harper takes Karl everywhere, including to the set of "The Biggest Loser," because, well, Harper's one of the stars of the show and he can get away with doing that. (The photo above was taken at the ranch.) And because Karl is small enough, he qualifies as carry-on "luggage" when Harper flies back East for his frequent guest appearances and his consulting gig on "The Dr. Oz Show."

And then there is the fact that Karl is so cute that he draws a crowd wherever he goes, as people crouch to scratch him and pat him and rub his belly. (Harper joked that no one talks to him anymore, they just come over to talk to Karl.)

In other words, this dog has it made.

Poll: More than half of survey respondents say they plan to adopt next pet from a shelter
German shepherd found emaciated in Bellflower garage is recovering -- and has a new home

-- Rene Lynch

Rescue dog who survived paralysis, distemper continues to inspire her veterinary team

Many readers have come to Dr. Heather Oxford for advice on animal health and wellness through Unleashed's Ask a Vet column. But when she's not answering your pet-health questions, Dr. Oxford is a practicing veterinarian at L.A.'s California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE), helping animals to bounce back from illness and injury. Dr. Oxford shares the story of one special patient who's fought both paralysis and distemper with the help of some devoted animal lovers. Here's M.J.'s story:

MJ in the UWTM This past month, M.J. has continued to make steady progress with gaining neuromuscular coordination and strength in her hind limbs.

She is standing herself up with ease now and you can hardly ever catch her lying down. She is so eager to get around on her legs now that she doesn't need any help at all.

She hasn't had to use her cart for almost three months now, and hasn't needed a supportive sling or pelvic harness for about a month. She hasn't needed the help of her blue booties for a few weeks now either.

She has been walking longer distances and even shaking and doing tight turns without losing her balance now! 

We are so excited that she has come so far. Even her urinary control has improved and she is not dribbling between potty breaks anymore.

The photo above shows M.J. during an underwater treadmill therapy session. (After the jump, see another photo of her receiving electroacupuncture treatment.) She's such a cutie, and she's sweet; she will make the ideal pet for some lucky person.

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Bel-Air pet store finds homes for shelter pets in space vacated by former purveyor of puppy-mill puppies

Woof Worx pet store

For five years, the manager of a pet store in posh Bel-Air met delivery trucks loaded with hundreds of ailing purebreds from Midwest puppy mills.

"They often got sick in transit," Jamie Katz said. "They would put hundreds of puppies on a semi, and if one got sick, they all got sick. I tried to fix the problems, but it's hard when you are the only one trying."

Two years ago, she found herself with allies -- protesters who showed up in front of the store in a high-end mall. They were working on a campaign of the Best Friends Animal Society to persuade people just like her to sell shelter animals instead, which is exactly what happened, thanks to Katz.

Amid the protests, Katz spent time talking to picketers, reading their literature and doing research; then the owners of the shop, Pets of Bel Air, decided to close. Katz borrowed money, leased the vacated store, hired eight employees (including her mom), bought all new inventory, named her business Woof Worx and took Best Friends up on an offer to help -- with questions, contacts and business advice.

Katz is now the group's poster child for going humane and is endorsed on websites, press releases and ongoing demonstrations at other stores.

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One rescued dog, one inspiring story: M.J. the shepherd mix overcomes paralysis, distemper

Many readers have come to Dr. Heather Oxford for advice on animal health and wellness through Unleashed's Ask a Vet column. But when she's not answering your pet-health questions, Dr. Oxford is a practicing veterinarian at L.A.'s California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE), helping animals to bounce back from illness and injury. Dr. Oxford shares the story of one special patient who's fought both paralysis and distemper with the help of some devoted animal lovers. Here's M.J.'s story:

MJDog2 Meet M.J., an 11-month-old spayed female German shepherd-Doberman pinscher mix. 

Her story began at the shelter, where she was abandoned by her former owners at the age of 7 months after her back legs were paralyzed from being hit by a car. One rescue organization took her to a veterinary hospital for X-rays, which showed a displaced vertebra in her spine that most likely damaged her spinal cord.

The recommendation was to euthanize her.

The rescue organization took her back to the shelter where she would likely be put down. But the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation had other plans for M.J. that day.

The group rescued her and brought her back to a veterinary hospital, where she stayed for the following week. I went to the hospital to meet her and she had no feeling or control of function in her back legs -- but that didn't stop her from being extremely happy and full of life! I instructed the staff to do therapeutic exercises with her, but over the course of one week she developed a cough and diarrhea. She tested positive for distemper virus, which she had contracted two to three weeks before showing these symptoms.

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Adopt-a-Pet: Sundance the Rhodesian ridgeback mix

Sundance Sundance (ID# A1081381), a male Rhodesian ridgeback-American Staffordshire terrier mix puppy, is a big favorite with staff and volunteers alike at the South Los Angeles animal shelter. Unfortunately for him, he can't stay there forever -- so he needs a new home, and quickly!

About Sundance: He's about 11 months old and, as such, is full of energy and fun.  He loves to play -- in fact, shelter volunteer Andrea Braver explains that she and other volunteers weren't able to get photos of him playing with his favorite tennis balls and rope toys because he was just "too fast for us." 

Braver describes Sundance as a "charismatic charmer" who has the goofy personality of the Rhodesian ridgeback breed that shelter staff believe makes up part of his heritage. He gets along with both larger and smaller dogs (Braver recalls one instance in which she observed him lying "in front of a kennel of small dogs, placidly looking at them and trying to kiss them through the bars of their cage while they barked madly at him") and loves people.

For more information: Meet Sundance in person at the South L.A. shelter, 3612 11th Ave., or call (888) 4LAPET1 with his ID number to learn more. 

UPDATE 1/11: Sundance has been pulled from the South L.A. shelter by an L.A.-area pet rescue group.  Congratulations, Sundance!

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Mindy Schneider

Adopt-a-Pet: Sasha the American Staffordshire terrier

SashaSasha (ID# A0980134), a 3-year-old female American Staffordshire terrier, was dropped at L.A.'s North Central animal shelter by her owners on Christmas Eve.  Despite that setback, Sasha remains "a very sweet and special dog," according to the shelter's New Hope program coordinator, Anna Hernandez.  But shelter staff worry that she may be overlooked by potential adopters because there are so many pit bulls and pit mixes who share her common coloring in the city's shelters.

About Sasha: She's gentle, well-behaved and already knows a number of commands, the beneficiary of private training sessions from a professional trainer, Hernandez says.  She's already house-trained, can sit, stay, shake hands, roll over and knows the commands "up" and "down."  At 54 pounds, she's on the large side of medium, and since she's already been spayed, she can go home immediately with her new owner. 

For more information: Meet Sasha in person at the North Central shelter, 3201 Lacy St., Los Angeles (off the 5 Freeway in Lincoln Heights), or call 888-4LAPET1 with her ID numbers to learn more about this great dog.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Los Angeles Department of Animal Services

Keep this pet living at home, thanks to your sponsorship. Yes, we can!

Roscoe Two of the biggest reasons that those sponsor-a-Third-World-child campaigns work are these: that the kids are so darned cute and hopeful and that the people donating the $20 or $50 a month understand that their money isn't just some drop in a vast, nameless bucket, destined to do good but in some broad-brush way. It's pledged to one child, one life.

Pet lovers need to step up to do the same. Every week, hundreds upon hundreds of dogs and cats are turned in at shelters, because their families can't afford to feed and care for them.

I've been at the shelter, and I've seen it -- crying children and grim-faced parents, surrendering their four-legged family member: the family cat locked in a cage, the family dog led away, whimpering, on a leash to a concrete floor and a likely death at the end of a needle.

The animal-loving world can set up the same model as the sponsor-a-child program.

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California animal shelters' plague: Not a rain of frogs, but a rain of Chihuahuas


Representatives from a half-dozen Bay Area animal shelters and rescue groups joined forces at a press conference Wednesday to draw attention to an increasingly large problem facing a tiny breed of dog: the humble Chihuahua. 

According to the group, the Chihuahua conundrum -- a shocking surplus of them flooding the state's stretched-thin shelters -- has gotten out of control.  They place the blame, or at least a large part of it, on the breed's strange status as a pop-culture icon. Famous Chihuahuas -- from Paris Hilton's Tinkerbell to Bruiser, the pink-clad accessory of Reese Witherspoon's "Legally Blonde" character, from the recently departed Taco Bell Mascot, Gidget, to Chloe, the star of last year's "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" -- are everywhere.  And their high profile means an increase in the number of puppies being bred for the pet market, many by breeders either unscrupulous or simply ill-prepared.

It's a recipe for disaster, and the disaster is now coming to fruition. "All the shelters in California are seeing an upswing in Chihuahua impounds," Deb Campbell, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco animal care and control department, told our colleague Maria L. La Ganga in an interview. "It's been a slow and steady climb... We call it the Paris Hilton syndrome." 

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