Monica is a black wire-haired Terrier experiencing motherhood with her brood of nine puppies after being abandoned in Stockton, California. Prior to her recent relocation from Stockton, her survival and that of her puppies were in doubt. Pregnant dogs are often the first euthanized in shelters because the resources to care for a litter of puppies are not usually available (Phelps County Animal Welfare League, Save a Mom Pregnant Dog Rescue). Imagine being a homeless mother to nine babies, all clamoring for attention and all less than a week old!
A sweet, cute, obedient dog, Monica will make a great companion-the Stockton Animal Shelter doesn't know why she was abandoned, but certainly her forthcoming litter was influential in that decision. Stockton's staff and the Stockton-based Animal Protection League (APL) tirelessly endeavored to find Monica a rescue organization willing to care for her and her unborn puppies until all are adoptable-and they found People United for Pets (PUP), an Issaquah-based foster organization full of dog lovers who are doing their best to offset the huge number of abandoned dogs in California while working with local Washington shelters.
PUP takes in abandoned animals from the Stockton, California shelter. Once the dogs are slated for transport to Washington, shelter staff and APL volunteers do as much as possible to prepare them for future adoption, including heartworm tests, spaying, neutering, and microchipping them. PUP then brings them to Washington where they are immediately placed in safe homes with caring foster families. Forty-five dogs, including Monica and her litter, were brought up in PUP's November 5th 'shelter sweep'-these lucky dogs will now find forever homes.
Stockton is located in the San Joaquin Valley, which has the third highest euthanasia rate in the United States. The sheer number of abandoned dogs in the Valley is unfathomable; there is no physical way for shelters to care for every abandoned animal. Minimal resources at shelters nationwide force shelter staff to reduce their populations in order to allow for an ever-increasing intake of animals. These needed resources include an adequate physical location, a large volunteer base to care for animals in and out of the shelter, a strong network of rescue partners, adequate staffing, an educated community, and access to low-cost services, especially spaying and neutering. Though pet owners are possibly intimidated by the expense of neutering or spaying, the cost is very low when compared to caring for an entire litter.
In six years, one unspayed female dog and her offspring can reproduce 67,000 dogs (Spay USA, current literature). It's not uncommon for dogs like Monica to be deserted by their owners when pregnancy is discovered. Often it's a second or third pregnancy for the dog, and the owner is quite cognizant of the difficulties another litter brings, so they discard their beloved pet. Abandoning a pregnant dog to the streets almost guarantees her demise, whether to starvation or wild animals. Relinquishing her to a shelter doesn't improve her chances, because of the aforementioned lack of resources. The best solution is preventing the pregnancy through spaying and educating pet owners. Most people don't know that a dog can get pregnant before she is six months old. Spaying might also prevent mammary tumors and breast cancer, while neutering might prevent prostate and testicular cancer. Both spaying and neutering have been shown to reduce aggression. According to Spay FIRST!, euthanasia due to being homeless is the single leading cause of death of dogs and cats in the United States (2011).
The Stockton shelter where Monica was originally taken is a typical animal shelter-under-staffed and over-worked. In 2010, Stockton's population of 292,133 yielded more than 6,000 abandoned dogs for which only six kennel employees were responsible. Sadly, over 3,000 of those dogs had to be euthanized-shelter employees helped almost 2,200 dogs get adopted or rescued, and hundreds were still awaiting their fate at the time these numbers were compiled. Pet owners who dispose of their pets less carefully than their bi-weekly recycling, force shelter staff to make horribly difficult decisions to best utilize their supplies-the sad truth is that a weekly intake far surpasses the happily adopted outgoing pets and requires such decisions.
Heavily pregnant Monica was picked up by Stockton animal control officers in late October and was already slated for euthanasia a week later when PUP agreed to bring her to Washington. Surprise! Nine additions-Franklin, Anderson, Morgan, Eisenhower, Isabella, Aspen, China, Jewell, and Mercedes-arrived two days before PUP's scheduled transport. The entire family is now comfortably and happily ensconced in a loving home with a PUP foster parent, who will care for them until they are old enough to be adopted. While Monica's story is a happy one, there are countless other dogs who are not so lucky. Happy and successful pet ownership starts with a commitment from the owner to become educated about caring for a pet. Pet ownership is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.
To learn more about how you can help other dogs like Monica get a second chance at life, visit www.peopleunitedforpets.com, or attend our next adoption event December 3rd, from 10-2pm at the Issaquah Petco.
People United for Pets (PUP) is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) registered non-profit organization specializing in small and toy breed dog rescue. PUP is located in Western Washington State. Learn more about PUP at http://www.peopleunitedforpets.com and browse adoptable dogs here.
Thank you Lisa Close, a fearless PUP volunteer, for researching and writing this article!