By Janet McAfee

The precious dog pictured here named Cesar was adopted as a young puppy then Nico and then returned 7 years later to our local Riverside County shelter, the Coachella Valley Animal Campus.  We do not know the reason why this lovely Lab mix was relinquished, but we know his heart must have broken when he was brought to a shelter.  He has no behavior or medical issues listed.  Some people are in serious situations, including eviction, homelessness, or very serious illness.  Some are uncaring and give up on their pets for trivial reasons.  Some would prefer to keep their pets but need help with dog behavior issues or with finding a low-cost veterinarian in these times of shortage.

I staff the phones at Loving All Animals private animal shelter in Coachella.  We are sometimes confused by callers with the Riverside County Coachella Valley Animal Campus.  The calls became noticeably more desperate and sad for the animals in 2023.  This year shows no relief for homeless animals and animals soon to lose their homes.  The Coachella Valley has a lot of seniors and most of them have no plan for their pets should they become permanently unable to care for them or pass away.  Some just assume “my kids will take them.”

Here is phone call that came into LAA.   “I’m in town for my mother’s funeral.  She left behind 3 cats and several dogs.  Can you come and get them now?  I’m leaving for the flight home in about 2 hours.”  No matter what your age, make a plan for your beloved pets.  Ask friends and family members if they can take one of your pets and put some funds to cover their vet care in a pet trust.  Maintain contact with them in case their situation changes.  They might later marry someone who is allergic to cats and dogs.


Here is another call.  “Can you take my dog?  I’m 64 years old, my husband passed away and I’ve got a sweet 8-yr-old Spaniel named Benji.  I met a wonderful man last month and he’s making travel plans for us.  He’s not much of a dog person.”  Sometimes it’s hard to be polite to some callers, but we rescuers are here for the animals.  We do everything we can think of, and in years past when there were lots of foster’s we would place Benji with people who deserve him.  I refrain from telling her that dating is not what it was when she was 20 and Mr. Wonderful will probably be history after the first vacation.

You may have seen recent local news reports on KESQ and KMIR about the crisis of overpopulation in our public shelters.  Shelters in many states and communities are simply out of kennel space and foster homes. Other columns covered the many reasons for this including the high cost and lack of available veterinary services for spaying and neutering.  (Animal Action League is very low-cost vet mobile vet program and can be reached at 760-366-1100 for spay & neuter appointments). HERE IS A LIST OF THINGS TO DO IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING TO KEEP YOUR BELOVED DOG OR CAT:

BEHAVIOR ISSUES IN DOGS – This is one reason why some owners seek to relinquish or rehome a dog.  House training issues can occur when one returns to work full time.  It may bark loudly causing issues with neighbors and the HOA.  It may be leash aggressive during neighborhood walks.  It may constantly run away causing multiple trips to retrieve it from the county shelter.  There is lots of free dog training assistance available online.  Lower cost dog training classes are offered at Petco and PetSmart.  Getting your dog spayed or neutered will reduce their aggression and limit the distance that unneutered males travel when escaping.  Valerie Masi with Best Paw Forward is an expert local trainer who can help with a myriad of issues.  Contact Valerie at (760) 885-9450.

LANDLORDS AND PETS – Many pet owners feel helpless when their landlord suddenly announces you can no longer have your beloved pet on the property.  Just today I had a call from a young couple with a Doberman dog they were previously allowed to keep notified by the new property manager there is a new breed restriction.  They were verbally told they had 3 days to relocate their pet.  Tenants have considerable rights in California, and I referred them to an animal rights attorney especially considering they received no written notice.  Big dogs are very difficult to place right now in the Coachella Valley.  I referred them to the Doberman Rescue located in Southern California but warned that they are getting many calls.

LANDLORDS AND CATS – You may have more room to negotiate to have a cat since they don’t bark, and they don’t require walks.  If you are a good tenant don’t hesitate to negotiate.  If they are concerned about cats clawing the carpet you can get little booties for them.  I once had 2 cats in an apartment building that didn’t allow them many years ago.  I simply prevented them from sitting on the window ledges and no one knew they were there.  Do this at your own risk.  Adult cats are very hard to rehome.

ECONOMIC PROBLEMS – The cost of pet ownership has increased considerably in the past few years. The cost of pet food increased 35 percent in 2023.  Did you know that food banks and senior centers usually carry free pet food?  The Palm Springs Animal Shelter operates a wonderful pet food bank to help owners keep pets in their homes.  Higher veterinary costs in the Coachella Valley make for heartbreaking decisions if your pet has serious medical issues.  Some people travel to Los Angeles County and Mexico for more affordable care.  Others make appointments in nearby Grand Terrace and Upland.  Email me for specific suggestions.

HEALTH & AGING PROBLEMS – Our region has many older seniors and others with physical limitations making it difficult to care for an animal.  You can hire a local teenager at less cost than a professional dog walker.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to a good friend for help with cleaning cat boxes or administering medications.  Most would be more than happy to keep Fido and Fluffy happy.  Everyone needs to have a plan of who will take your animal should you enter assisted living or pass away.  A pet trust written by an attorney is highly recommended.  Some people pass away leaving frightened animals alone in the house.

LONG WORK HOURS – Calls come in from people concerned and sometimes guilty that pets don’t get enough attention because they work full time.  There is a private animal rescue group based in San Diego that is reluctant to adopt one of their animals to people with full time outside employment.  Yes, animals are thrilled when we are at home, but they also sleep away most of the day.  There are also options of doggie day care and a quick trip home at lunch.  A trusted neighbor might be delighted and to take your dog for a walk.  All options are better than being in a crowded public shelter where your pet may catch an illness or not get adopted.

Someone reading this might be interested in adopting handsome 7-yr-old Cesar at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus.  Drop by to meet dog ID#A 1394310 at 72-050 Pet Land Place in Thousand Palms, open 10am to 4pm Monday through Saturday.  Ask staff to take him to a private visiting area.

Your pet is an important part of your life.  To him you are his whole life while he waits for you to come home as soon as you leave.

Thanks to Cheryl Honts for photos!