L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Category: Rescue

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

One-fourth of new animal hoarding cases involve rescuers, ASPCA expert says

DogHoarder Linda Bruno called her Pennsylvania cat rescue the land of milk and tuna. It thrived for years as people sent pets they couldn't care for from hundreds of miles away -- unaware that it was a death camp for cats.

Investigators who raided the place two years ago found killing rooms, mass graves so thick they couldn't take a step without walking on cat bones and a stunning statistic: Bruno had taken in more than 7,000 cats in the previous 14 months, but only found homes for 23.

In doing so, she had become a statistic herself, one of an increasing number of self-proclaimed rescuers who have become animal hoarders running legal and often nonprofit charities.

Rescues and shelters now make up a quarter of the estimated 6,000 new hoarding cases reported in the U.S. each year, said Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA's senior vice president of forensic sciences and anticruelty projects.

"When I first started looking into this 20 years ago, fewer than 5% would have fit that description," Lockwood said.

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Update: Nico, the deaf shelter dog whose photo inspired online rescue community, has a new home in Indiana

Last year, guest blogger Janet Kinosian shared the story of Nico, a shelter dog who was rescued through the efforts of Southern California rescuers and a community of animal-loving Facebook users. Since then, Nico's story has gotten even better; here, Kinosian fills us in on what's been going on in the life of this hard-luck dog who became one of the luckiest couch potatoes in Indiana.

Nico9 Nico8

Remember Nico, the defeated deaf white Dogo Argentino at South Los Angeles animal shelter -- who moved so many people with the sad photo of him first posted on Facebook? Nico, the forlorn animal who evoked the agony and utter defeat so many discarded animals must experience? Well, it's a joy to update you on Nico's life.

Just look at these two photos side by side: Can this possibly be the same animal?

Photos like the one on the left aren't anything new on the Web: Tens of thousands flood Facebook alone on a daily basis. What was different about Nico's photo, though, was what it captured: the loneliness of an animal that lay against the shelter's wall full of sadness, seeming to have lost all hope. That only spurred on Southern California rescuers.

And that's where the photo on the right comes in.

Things have worked out well for Nico SwanGarris. That's his new name and he lives now with his two moms and new sister, Brisby, a pit bull mix who is also deaf and white, in Indiana. He still loves balls, baths and life as a major couch potato, says Bridget Swan, who, with her partner Melissa, adopted Nico in November 2009.

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Ohio dog who survived multiple gunshots will move to Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary in Utah

TOLEDO, Ohio — A German shepherd who survived six gunshots in Ohio soon will move to a no-kill shelter that took in pit bulls seized from Michael Vick's dogfighting ring.

The Best Friends Animal Society says Sarge will leave for his new home in southern Utah by the end of the month. He'll be with about 1,700 other animals.

Humane Society workers in Toledo had said Sarge wouldn't be put up for adoption after he bit two employees, but the Utah shelter has agreed to take him in.

Authorities say Sarge's owner and another man took turns shooting the dog while he was in a cage.

Vick, now quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, served 18 months in prison for his involvement in the dogfighting ring.

July in animal news: Five questions with Best Friends Animal Society co-founder Francis Battista
Monty, dog shot and left near death, is on the road to recovery thanks to rescuers

-- Associated Press

Video: A TV news report about Sarge after the July incident. Credit: Fox Toledo News

July in animal news: Five questions with Best Friends Animal Society co-founder Francis Battista

We're asking experts in the animal-protection community to offer their insights on the latest animal news and fill us in on what their organizations are working on. Here, Best Friends Animal Society co-founder Francis Battista shares his take on a large-scale rescue of beagles from a medical-testing facility, the effort to increase adoptions of pit bulls and pit mixes, Best Friends' upcoming Strut Your Mutt fundraising walks in L.A. and New York and the rescue dog that inspired him to help homeless pets everywhere. Battista's responses represent his own views and not necessarily ours.

Francis Battista and Teddy Unleashed: What do you view as the most important development in animal news to happen in July?

Francis Battista: The appointment of Brenda Barnette as the new general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services.

Unleashed: What were Best Friends' biggest projects in July?

Battista: The Great Beagle Escape: Best Friends teamed up with Pets Alive of Middletown, N.Y., to save 120 beagles from a medical laboratory after the facility went bankrupt.

Unleashed: What will Best Friends be working on in August?

Battista: Developing a shelter partnership to increase the number of pit bulls and pit bull mixes that are adopted through a program involving training and special promotions. This August we will also have rescued our 1,000th puppy mill survivor from Midwest puppy mills....[Survivors are] transported to new homes in the Northeast.

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Pamela Anderson helps canine victims of oil spill (and returns home with two new rescue dogs of her own)

PamelaAnderson NEW ORLEANS — Most of the roughly 50 abandoned dogs parading under the oaks at New Orleans City Park on Monday were bound for a pet adoption program in Virginia, but two were headed for California with their new owner, actress Pamela Anderson.

"My son was hoping we could take all 50," Anderson said before latching on to her two new charges -- small brown dogs tentatively identified by shelter officials as Chihuahua mixes. Anderson named them in honor of fellow actresses Gina Lollobrigida and Brigitte Bardot.

Anderson helped walk the dogs as part of a news conference calling attention to a program aimed at helping deal with an overflow of abandoned pets since the BP oil spill.

"We couldn't find homes for all the dogs that were being surrendered before the spill," said Bridgette Verdin of the Humane Society of Louisiana, which is working with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and several New Orleans-area shelters to find homes for the dogs. Verdin said the spill, which has caused people to lose jobs and income in southeastern Louisiana, only made the existing animal adoption problems worse.

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July in animal news: Five questions with American Humane Assn. Vice President Debrah Schnackenberg

We're asking experts in the animal-protection community to offer their insights on the latest animal news and fill us in on what their organizations are working on. Debrah Schnackenberg, vice president of the American Humane Assn.'s Animal Emergency Services division, offers her take on the importance of planning for animals' safety in the event of emergencies, a huge effort to find new adoptive homes for needy cats in Pennsylvania and how her own search-and-rescue dog inspires her. Schnackenberg's responses represent her own views and not necessarily ours.

DebrahSCropped Unleashed: What do you view as the most important development in animal news to happen in July?

Debrah Schnackenberg: There are two that come to mind. On July 28, Michigan's House of Representatives passed landmark legislation authored by American Humane to effectively end the 30-year practice of pound seizure -- pet dealers taking shelter dogs and cats for sale to research facilities.

If you can imagine the horror of having your family pet wind up in a shelter and then be sold to a dealer for scientific experiments before it can be picked up or find a new home, you can imagine the importance of this legislation. HB 4663 (also known as Koda's Law in honor of a dog that died after being a victim of pound seizure) would prevent Class B dealers (named after their type of U.S. Department of Agriculture license) from engaging in the practice of providing shelter animals around the nation to research laboratories for experimentation. There are currently nine Class B dealers that broker live animals for experimentation in the United States; three are located in Michigan.

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July in animal news: Five questions with Found Animals executive director Aimee Gilbreath

We're asking experts in the animal-protection community to offer their insights on the latest animal news and fill us in on what their organizations are working on. Here, Aimee Gilbreath of the L.A.-based Found Animals Foundation Inc., which works to minimize animal shelter euthanasia rates, gives us her take. Gilbreath's responses represent her own views and not necessarily ours.

AimeeGilbreath Unleashed: What do you view as the most important development in animal news to happen in July?

Aimee Gilbreath: The best news for pets and families in the Los Angeles area is the launch of a new high-quality, low-cost spay/neuter facility at the East Valley shelter in Van Nuys. Getting a pet sterilized through spay/neuter surgery is safe for your pet, will help minimize certain health problems and unwanted behavior and avoid unwanted litters of puppies and kittens that crowd the shelters. This new clinic is on the grounds of the East Valley shelter and run by Clinico, a wonderful nonprofit that Found Animals helps fund.

Clinico offers low-cost sterilization as well as vaccinations and microchipping to everyone -- and special below-cost pricing for low-income pet owners thanks to the generous support of donors. As part of the grand opening festivities, Found Animals is sponsoring free surgeries for cats, pit bulls and pit mixes, and Chihuahuas and mixes belonging to low-income pet owners in Pacoima (91331), Reseda (91335), Van Nuys (91406) and North Hollywood (91605). This is a limited-time offer -- so call (818) 849-6373 for more details and to make an appointment. Clinico also has locations in Pico Rivera and Harbor with great prices and special offers so check out Clinico.org or call (888) WE-SPAY-LA.

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July in animal news: Five questions with ASPCA Chief Operating Officer Dr. Steven Hansen

We're asking experts in the animal-protection community to give us their takes on the latest news involving animals and fill us in on what their organizations are working on. Here, Dr. Steven Hansen, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Chief Operating Officer, gives us his insights. Hansen's responses represent his own views, not necessarily ours.

Dr.-Steven-Hansen Unleashed: What do you view as the most important development in animal news to happen in July?

Dr. Steven Hansen: H.R. 5566 was drafted in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in April to overturn a ban on the sale of animal 'crush videos,' which are sexual fetish videos that depict a woman's feet crushing to death small animals such as kittens and rodents. The narrowly tailored bill specifically addresses 'crush videos,' and hunting, fishing and trapping videos are exempt, along with videos depicting customary veterinary and animal husbandry practices.

While we're pleased that the House of Representatives is moving forward in order to protect animals from such egregious acts of torture and cruelty, we urge the Senate to quickly take up the bill.  This important humane legislation must be passed by both chambers of Congress for it to become a law.

For more information on H.R. 5566, please visit ASPCA.org/HR5566.

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Animal shelters struggle to deal with influx of surrendered pets in the wake of gulf oil spill

St. Bernard animal shelter

VIOLET, La. — Double-bunked behind the bars at the overrun St. Bernard Animal Shelter are more victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill: shiny-coated Labrador retrievers, long-haired Chihuahuas and a fluffy Shih Tzu.

Among the more typical skinny, stray mutts are healthy, seemingly well-tended dogs whose owners, because of the massive spill, suddenly don't have the time or money to keep them.

"It's the economy, the uncertainty of the future, for sure," said shelter director Beth Brewster, who saw 117 owners surrender their animals last month -- up from 17 in June 2009.

May was particularly bad, Brewster said: The Violet shelter took in 288 animals that month, compared with 60 in May 2009.

Dean Howard of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said several coastal parishes began reporting a surge in owner relinquishments immediately after the spill.

In St. Bernard Parish, nearly every livelihood is somehow connected to the gulf. Fishermen normally ply the waters for seafood. Offshore rig workers drill for oil and longshoremen unload a never-ending flow cargo ships on the Mississippi River.

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