By Janet McAfee

Bianca Rae, KESQ and CBS Local 2 Reporter, as chairperson of Operation Indio Animals lent her voice in the media to help, and worked with Loving All Animals to hold weekly off site adoption events. Valerie Katzz, local radio and television personality, took an Indio dog on CBS Local 2 television news every Wednesday morning, and together they charmed the audience.

The CV Weekly magazine featured the Indio animals, exposing them to a large readership who otherwise would never have seen them. Many were adopted after being viewed in this Pet Place column.

I can’t even begin to mention the names of the dedicated Indio shelter volunteers who fostered animals, took them to events, and arranged for rescues and transports as far away as Canada. Some of the volunteers paid for expensive medical needs of the animals. A volunteer helped fund the “2 for 1” cat adoption special.

One Indio shelter volunteer had mixed emotions as she surveyed the almost empty shelter. She commented, “It’s haunting to look at the empty kennels. I wonder how all the animals adopted from here are doing now. I’m concerned that the county shelter has limited space which could mean more animals will be put down. We need a better shelter system with people who are genuinely dedicated to the welfare of the animals. It’s been a great experience volunteering at this shelter and meeting all the people from the rescue groups who go out of their way to help animals. I encourage people to adopt from a shelter. In the beginning, a shelter dog might be timid, but given a chance, shelter dogs are the best dogs.”

Private no-kill shelters continued to help. The Pet Rescue Center in Coachella, a model for private shelters, has rescued Indio dogs for many years, and they continue their efforts to help homeless East Valley animals. Christina Madruga at the Center is now pulling dogs from CVAC.

Now for the good news! As of August 27, only 1 dog named Boris remained at the Animal Care Center of Indio. Save A Pet private shelter in Desert Hot Springs signaled their commitment to take in any remaining dogs. Boris, the handsome fellow pictured here, will soon make his way to Save A Pet where he has the guarantee of a new home. All the cats were adopted or taken in by private no-kill rescue groups who will find homes for them. Last week Pretty Good Cat came to take in 7 more cats. None of the Indio animals will be transported to the Thousand Palms county shelter where their chances for adoption are a roulette wheel of chance.

Bianca Rae is pictured here with a grateful Indio dog at an adoption event. She reports, “I’d like to thank Loving All Animals for their endless support for shelter animals. Also, thank you to everyone in the desert who opened their hearts and homes to one of these animals. I think this just shows the Coachella Valley can truly do anything. We are exceedingly fortunate to live in a place like this, and now the animals are just as lucky to have new homes and another chance!”

Lindi Biggi, Loving All Animals President, kept our team motivated to get every Indio animal adopted or to a private rescue. Lindi sums up the results, “It is amazing to go from over 200 animals down to one dog that will now go to Save A Pet. Jose Mercure, shelter director, and Bianca Rae did a wonderful job orchestrating this community effort to find homes for these animals.” I want to personally add that the Animal Care Center of Indio improved dramatically when Jose Mercure became shelter director last year.

What will become of the empty shelter building? The building on Van Buren Street looks like a relic of times past, the vacant kennels now empty and silent where the wail of barking dogs once permeated the air. Some say the structure should be bulldozed, as needed repairs would be costly. Others would like to see it turned into a low cost spay and neuter clinic. Economics and politics, and hopefully a desire to improve the welfare of animals, will weave a solution in the years ahead.

Operation Indio Animals is a victory for the creatures abandoned by their first families who now have a second chance at a forever home. But the battle is far from over. The steady stream of homeless animals coming into the already crowded county Coachella Valley Animal Campus has only increased with the new Indio additions. Some adoptable animals end up euthanized. CVAC is offering incredibly low adoption rates through August, so now is the time to adopt. The effort now must shift to “Operation Coachella Valley Animal Campus”. You can view their animals at

We can’t just look to government and public operated shelters to solve the homeless pet problem. The citizens of Indio and the entire Coachella Valley need to care about their companion animals and make their voices heard for those who have no voice.