Category: “Community Voice Column”

Fostering is Fun!

Fostering is Fun!

What’s even better than watching the telly at night? What provides laughing-out-loud non-stop entertainment? Guaranteed to amuse everyone from your kindergartner to your grandmother? A litter of kittens at play! And the best part is that when they finally get tired you get some cuddle time in too. The best of both worlds! I’m not suggesting that you adopt a whole litter – but you could foster a pair or more and have kittens (the politically correct way) to entertain you!

Fostering can be lots of fun. Watching little furballs play fight and wrestle, zoom around the room, explore new territory – it’s better than anything on the TV! As the days go by it’s fascinating to see them grow and develop little personalities. It’s a project the whole family can get involved in – no reason the children can’t help scooping the litterboxes or fill the kibble. And it’s an opportunity to teach appropriate handling, respect for when the animals are sleeping, important priorities (who gets to eat first?) and compassion to your children.

Kitten season is in full swing and we are seeing a second wave of litters now. With school and other life changes, we have lost a few of our foster families so we need to replenish our roster. If you think you are up for fostering (whether that be just a pair of kittens or a litter of 4-6 babies) –please sign up now to become a foster parent. It’s usually a commitment of usually just 2-3 weeks depending on the age and size of the kittens you take, and no experience is required – we provide all the food and supplies you need and are available for any questions. You just have to give them a safe small area in your house (a bathroom is perfect, or we can provide a cage), some time and love! More details are available on our website,

All applications to volunteer, for any position, are now done on-line. There is a link to the application on our website at We have streamlined our process to onboard new volunteers and more of it is done digitally. There is still a personal interview (for adults) and training, of course, but there is no longer a long wait for the next general orientation. If you have applied in the past and become frustrated with the delays, try again and submit an application online. If you don’t have a computer there are free ones available to use at the public library or you can stop by the shelter and one of our friendly staff will assist you with the application process.

In addition to foster parents, we need help in our front office, people willing to do some of the cleaning in the morning and closing in the evening, adoption outreach assistants and bunny huggers! Interested in fundraising? Our non-profit, the Animal Shelter League, can use a few helping hands for our upcoming fundraiser, Bark after Dark. When you apply on-line there is a spot to indicate your interests and skills, so we can match you up with the most appropriate position.

Come join our life-saving team – either by directly taking in and raising some kittens or by helping the shelter overall. We have a great group of animal lovers so you will have lots of good company! We know we couldn’t possibly do all that we do without the help of every single volunteer and we appreciate their energy and time. Come make a difference – apply today!

Pet Emergency Preparedness – Are You Ready?

Pet Emergency Preparedness – Are You Ready?

I found it hard to believe that after being away for three weeks I came back to find the same fires that were burning when I left were still not contained!  These disasters, and the current hurricane threat on the East Coast, are becoming more and more common.  Frightening, no?  Are you ready?  Are your pets covered in your emergency plans?  If the fire here last year wasn’t a wake up call, then consider this one!  Get prepared!

There are actually two different kinds of emergencies and although they have some common tenants, they are actually very different. In California, until recently, we mostly focused on earthquakes as the most likely emergency we would face.  In that case, we are told, we need to be prepared to survive for three to five days on our own before help will arrive.  That means we need to pack away food and water, basic toiletries and clothing and first aid materials.  Including food, litter and other necessities for all your pets.  Assume no electricity or phones and road closures so you have to stay in place.

The second type of emergency is something like the fires where you grab and go.  The whole world is not burning (although it may seem all of California is in flames at times) so as soon as you are out of the area you will be able to buy groceries and clothing.  Then what you need to grab from your home – besides your family and pets – are your valuables and irreplaceable items like photos.  It was interesting to hear about some of the things people took with them during the fires last year.  People packed their cars with toilet paper and water and lost precious pictures and family heirlooms.

The part that’s the same for any kind of emergency is to have a plan on how to catch and transport your pets.  Do you have cat carriers handy?  Is your dog’s leash always in the same place so it’s easy to grab?  Do you have pictures of your pets in case they disappear?  Are they microchipped so they will be easy to identify?  What are you waiting for?  Microchips are free for Rohnert Park and Cotati residents at the shelter!  Do you have a list of any medications your pets are on?  A great idea I recently heard was to take a picture of the bottle of all medications so you can show to a veterinarian if you need to evacuate and get a refill.  Take a picture of their vaccination records too so you can show proof if needed; then you are not trying to remember to grab a file and shuffling through papers.

Do you have a bag packed with some of your pets’ food and litter if you need to grab and go?  Do you know where you would go that will accept pets?  More and more emergency shelters are allowing pets in with their owners if they are pet and people friendly but you might want to have some back-up options ready.  And pick someone that lives out of the immediate area that can be your central contact in case you and other family members get separated.  Make sure that person’s contact information is programmed into everyone’s phone.

There are some great resources for lists and suggestions on what to have in your emergency kits for pets.  Instead of listing those items here, I’ll just refer you to these websites: and and What I didn’t realize when I first set-up my emergency containers is that’s not the end of the work.  You can’t just pack it once and forget about them.  The food and water you store away must be continuously rotated or when you need it years later you will be sadly disappointed that everything is spoiled.  Being prepared for emergencies is a continuous process.  Pick a date or day of the month that you will focus on this important task.  As a family do a drill and check your supplies.  Better to be ready and not ever need it than the opposite, right?

Would you adopt to these people?

Would you adopt to these people?

There’s an interesting discussion going on within the animal shelter director’s chat group about what policies each agency has in place to deal with this situation: A person comes in and surrenders an elderly pet and immediately wants to adopt a puppy. What do you think the shelter should do?

If you’re honest, most people’s first response (I believe, having only done an informal survey of a handful of friends) would be to refuse the adoption and to judge the person harshly for walking away from his old companion. In fact, part of what sparked this discussion is a rather opinionated story that appeared in the Orange County Register newspaper ( It gives two examples of people giving up on their older dogs, one where the person literally abandoned the dog in a crate in a store parking lot, is clearly illegal and cruel. The other is where the owner surrendered his dog to the shelter for what seemed to be a frivolous reason. The old dog “doesn’t do anything anymore.” I’m sure you would agree that is not the most valid reason to give up on an old friend.

The truth is, in the scenario I gave at the beginning of this article, we don’t have enough information to make a decision. Was the dog being surrendered incurably ill? Were vet expenses beyond the reach of the owner? Does that mean they couldn’t afford to have a puppy? Or just that they couldn’t afford, or chose not to, put thousands of dollars into an old animal that was clearly on his way out? Had they given the dog 10+ quality years of care? Anyone who’s had a pet knows there comes a time when you have to make a decision. Are we to be judged about our pet owning ability strictly on this end-of-life decision?

The comments back and forth in the chat room were both interesting and enlightening. We all have our personal biases; we are after all, first human beings and second shelter directors. We try to be impartial and fair, but it can be hard. And also, very hard when our decisions are scrutinized by volunteers who also come with their biases and are very protective of the animals in our care.  You often hear things like “they don’t deserve another dog” or “they shouldn’t be allowed to own a pet.” But if they took good care of the animal for his whole life and they are both financially and physically capable of caring for another younger animal, why wouldn’t we want them to adopt? While we are judging them, there are animals in shelters dying for lack of a home. You have to step back sometimes and look at the whole picture.

We try to not make people feel judged or embarrassed about bringing their pet in for surrender.  It sure beats having them abandoned in a crate in a parking lot!  At least this way we can get some important history and information on the animal to help us make an informed decision about their care. We will, however, have a discussion about other options to see if they have been fully explored and then counsel people appropriately about adopting a new pet. One thing I like to point out to those with children is to be aware of the example you are setting about how we care for the elderly in our society. Those children will one day be making decisions about your care when you are old!

The important part is to take each animal as a unique situation and not to jump to conclusions when we don’t have all the information. So, the answer to the first question about whether we would adopt a puppy to someone who had just surrendered a senior pet is….it depends!

Why YOU should volunteer at the shelter

Why YOU should volunteer at the shelter

Here’s the top 10 reasons why you should volunteer at the shelter:

1)You love animals

2)You want to give back to your community

3)You want to be part of the solution

4)You enjoy the company of like-minded people

5)You have skills (computer, organizational, artistic) that you enjoy sharing

6)You want to feel like you’ve made a difference

7)You want to do something that you’re passionate about

8)You like feeling needed and appreciated

9)You want to be part of a team that is doing good in the world

10)You have nothing better to do with your time…..kidding!  Did we mention you want to help animals?

There are probably lots of other reasons to join our team but we’ll stop there and give you the details on how you too can become involved.

On Saturday, Feb. 3 at 10 a.m. is a one-hour informational orientation for new adult volunteers. You will hear about what we expect of our volunteers, the commitment we ask, a description of the various positions available, our philosophy and mission and have a chance to ask questions. You don’t need to rsvp but you might want to stop by the shelter before that date to pick up an application, or download it from our website ( so you can bring it already completed.

Every year approximately 1,100 unwanted, lost, injured and sick animals come through our door looking for help and a second chance. Each one needs daily care and attention.  Our small staff has all we can handle trying to get through the basic care needed each day. It is the volunteers that give the animals the attention they need, the ‘extras’ that help keep them sane and adoptable during their stay at the shelter. Things like walks, grooming, socialization with people and other animals and training for behavior issues.  By volunteering at the shelter you can directly impact and help these animals.

If you are a people-person, we need help both in the office and at adoption outreach events. When we are open to the public – after 1 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays – this place is hopping! If you like people as well as animals, and have some office/computer skills, this is a wonderful way to assist. Promoting our animals for adoption, and being shelter ambassadors out in the community is a great way to help our animals find homes. Which is really what we’re all about, right?!

We ask a weekly commitment for most of these jobs. We provide training and there is the inevitable paperwork so we want people who are serious and, hopefully, long-term.  What if you just can’t commit that much time but still want to help? Some of our events are just monthly – it will just take you longer to learn the drill. We also have the Animal Shelter League, a separate non-profit organization that incorporated to assist the shelter with fundraising and educational events. Could you attend monthly meetings? Assist with occasional fundraisers? Then being part of this group might be right for you. If time is the problem, but you really want to help, donations to this group are always welcome.

If volunteering in the shelter is not for you, you can do a lot from the comfort of your home in just a few minutes a day. Like our Facebook page and help animals with the click of a mouse. By sharing our posted strays you can help reunite a lost pet with his worried parents. Or connect an adoptable animal to someone looking for a new pet -matchmaking has never been this easy!

Want to learn more? The orientation will be held at the shelter Saturday, Feb. 3 at  10 a.m. We are located at 301 J. Rogers Ln, behind the Press Democat building off Redwood Drive. We look forward to having you as part of our life-saving team!

Why Should You Tag Your Pet?

Why Should You Tag Your Pet?

OK, here’s a question for you.  If you found a stray dog or cat on your property, would you help him or her? I’m guessing that if you are reading this article you are somewhat of an animal lover.  Most people would help the dog because dogs aren’t usually seen roaming around alone. It’s clear that he is lost (or possibly abandoned) and would need help to survive in a suburban area like Rohnert Park. But the cat?

Experience has shown that most people would not immediately help the cat unless he or she clearly looked injured or sick. The thinking goes like this “maybe she’s a feral and used to living on her own.” Or, “She may be someone’s outside cat that wandered over here. I’m sure she will head home soon.” And it’s not until the cat has been around consistently for several days that people start to really take notice. Then they feel bad for her and put out some food (good way to keep the cat around your property!) and wondering why she’s not leaving! But, if the cat is wearing a collar and tags the thinking changes. Obviously, she is not feral. She must have a family (cats are not born with collars, so someone must have cared enough for this animal to go out and buy a collar and tag and put it on her). Now she may still be an outdoor, or inside/outside cat but you can’t know that unless the tag says so.

Which raises the next question about why people feel it is safe and OK to just open the door and let a cat roam about freely on her own? When you count up the number of possible hazards that an outdoor cat faces on a daily basis you quickly realize just how dangerous the world is for an unsupervised animal. The fact that there are cats that have gone in and out for years just means that people are pushing the odds. But that is a topic for another time. My point is that the simple fact the cat is wearing a collar is enough to motivate more people to offer assistance.

That may just be to call the owner (assuming there is a tag with a phone number on it) and see if the cat is lost or just allowed to wander free or to bring the cat into the shelter so she can be scanned for a microchip. Depending on the answer, the finder can decide if they want to

return the cat to the owners or take the cat home and assume care, or surrender the cat to the shelter. Most people, if they find a pet with a tag (phone number or address) will contact the owners themselves and just return the pet. A tag gives a good Samaritan an easy way to do a good deed and help the animal without involving the shelter or anyone else. If it were that easy more people would help more pets!

January 1st is National Check Your Pets ID Day (not officially but it should be!). Make sure your pets are wearing a well- fitting collar and have a readable tag with current information. We offer personalized tags free at the shelter for residents of RP and Cotati and just $5 for everyone else.  And free microchips too! There is no reason for your pet not to have this advantage if he or she ever wanders away from home (or there is a fire, an earthquake, or someone breaks into your home). We make it easy for you to do the right thing so take advantage of this offer and come on by for your free tag and chip. It’s the traditional way to celebrate this holiday


Take Rescued Animals to Local Shelter

Take Rescued Animals to Local Shelter

We recently took in a stray dog that someone found on the freeway and stopped to rescue. Bless this Good Samaritan for helping a lost dog that was in trouble and could have been seriously hurt as he ran along the side of a busy freeway exit. That was a generous and kind thing to do. The only problem is that the freeway was the I-5 out by Manteca. That’s over three hours away!  What are the chances that an owner (and we always start with the assumption that the animal is simply lost) would think to look at an animal shelter in Rohnert Park?

I can’t even count how many animal shelters the finder drove by on his way back to Sonoma State. Research (so that we could post a found report) turned up two shelters in the Manteca area plus there are shelters throughout the East Bay – Contra Costa, Fremont, Oakland, Berkeley and more. Someone would have to be diligent and persistent to find a stray in a shelter so far away.  Sadly, the dog had no ID, nor was he microchipped so we have no way to track down his parents.

A few years ago, we had someone bring us a stray dog all the way from San Luis Obispo – that’s over six hours away! The dog had a microchip and we were able to trace the owner quickly but he was overwhelmed with the logistics of retrieving his pet, even though we were going to find transport and instead he surrendered the dog to us. That might have had a totally different ending if the dog had been scanned closer to home!

This has become a serious issue during natural disasters. After Hurricane Katrina, stray animals were flown all over the country since the shelters there were so overwhelmed. The agreement was that if an owner was located, the pet was to be flown back, but think about the logistics of that! For an owner looking for a lost pet having to look at a gazillion websites to try and identify their pet from all the other look-alikes seems like a daunting task. Of course, a microchip would make it so much simpler (do I push chips enough? I believe in them! And have I mentioned recently that we offer them FREE to residents of RP/Cotati?)

It’s wonderful that there are people who care enough to stop and help an animal in distress along a busy road. I definitely want to encourage and support those people but I think too often we jump to conclusions that the animal was abandoned or dumped or come up with some other story in our heads that justifies keeping or re-homing the animal without giving the real owner even a chance to reclaim their pet. There are so many circumstances that can result in an animal ending up lost and in distress that don’t include a negligent owner and we have to at least start with the assumption that every stray has a home that we just need to find.

Bringing a stray to a shelter is the right thing to do if only to have him scanned for a chip and a found report left – if you’re willing to hold on to the animal. Reporting a found animal to the closest shelter is actually a legal requirement so always do that. It also protects you from being accused of theft of someone’s pet, just in case the owner isn’t as grateful for your help as you expect. Our job is to do everything we can to help the lost pet find his or her parents again. We post all our strays on our Facebook page – you can help us by sharing those posts. We love happy reunions!

Bad things come in three’s

Bad things come in three’s

They say that bad things come in three’s. If that’s true then the good news is we’re done!  Have to say, it has been a rough, not to mention expensive past few weeks.  If you follow us on Facebook then you already know what I’m referring to.

It started with three dogs who came down with kennel cough.  Except for the fact that it’s highly contagious to other dogs, it’s mostly just a nuisance.  Certainly not life threatening unless you already have a sick or immune compromised dog. But trying to contain it so it doesn’t spread through a kennel is difficult and time consuming – changing smocks between rooms, wearing gloves, tons of disinfectant and using separate exercise areas. Employees who handle those dogs can’t go in our other dog rooms and instead clean the cats; it’s a lot of juggling, but we made it work. Thanks to our diligent staff and volunteers no one else came down with the cough and all three dogs recovered and have been adopted.

When we were at the end of the coughing dogs’ quarantine – we got in a sick large breed puppy.  He was just abandoned in a crate at our door without a note or any information, (what were the owners thinking!). We didn’t know he was sick (we assumed he was just shy and overwhelmed in a new place) so he was in our stray room. When we realized he really wasn’t feeling well we immediately tested for Parvo and, sadly, he was positive. Had we known he was sick we would have isolated him and immediately begun treatments. Now we had to disinfect our whole stray area! Fortunately he hadn’t been taken out to any of our dog fields or other rooms of the shelter.  Sully, as we named him (because he crashed and survived!) wasn’t terribly young or frail and responded well to treatment – gallons of fluids, anti-nausea mediation and antibiotics.

A couple days into his treatment there was another box at our door (is this a thing again? Suddenly we’re back to having animals abandoned here!) This time with two very sick, very young Rottie type puppies. Immediately suspecting the worse, staff set them up in ISO and started treatment. Parvo is one of the few words that will strike fear into any shelter workers’ heart. Many puppies don’t survive and many of the bigger, more crowded shelters can’t risk the spread of the disease and euthanize immediately. We are fortunate to have a separate isolation area to quarantine these animals so we do try to save them. But sadly, these two puppies were already too sick and first one, then the other, succumbed in spite of our best efforts.  Heartbreaking.

Then, believe it or not, we got in three injured animals in the same week! A young pup with a broken leg, a teenaged cat and then separately a kitten, both with broken pelvises. What are the chances of that? The estimate for surgical repair was $5,000 – a price way over our head especially if you multiply it by three animals. We shopped around, begged and pleaded for help and through the generosity of VCA (Veterinary Corporation of America) found a local vet hospital and surgeon willing to take on our cases at a much reduced rate.

Upon further examination and diagnostics, it was determined that the puppy’s leg was not a complete fracture and could heal if just splinted and given cage rest. The older kitten, Ramblin’ Rose had surgery and a plate put into her hip and she is doing well. The kitten was discovered to have much more extensive injuries and a poor prognosis and, sadly, was euthanized. Again our hearts were broken. Sometimes we just have to focus on those we can help and give them all we can!

We have no budget for these kind of medical cases and rely on the Animal Shelter League for financial support. Donations are gratefully accepted online at, or cash and checks can be brought or mailed to the shelter (301 J. Rogers Lane, RP 94928). Help us be ready for the next Sully and Rose that comes limping, or coughing (or worse) through our doors!

Would you like your cat to be happy?

Would you like your cat to be happy?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the information from a cat behavior course I took last year. I’m finally getting around to rewriting our cat adoption packet to reflect some of the new thoughts and this summer I presented the cat care talk to our summer campers. Not wanting to be insulting, I skipped the part about cats needing food and water and tried to focus on simple things we can and should do as good cat parents to keep our pets safe and happy. It’s really not that difficult if you whittle down all the possible extras that you could do and stick to the core items.

One of the most common reasons for cats to be surrendered to shelters has to do with litterbox issues. Cats are extremely fastidious creatures and also have a highly developed sense of smell.  Put those two things together with a dirty litterbox and you can see right away where the problem lies. It’s our job to provide enough litterboxes to give everyone a choice – that means one per cat plus one extra. And to keep them clean (to their standards, not ours) – which means scooping twice daily and washing it out weekly.

Understanding how cats in the wild live can help us understand some of our pet cats needs and instincts. The wild cat does just five basic behaviors all day – hunt, kill, eat, groom and sleep.  Repeat. So does that mean we should all let our cats outside to indulge their need to hunt? Well the campers came up with a pretty impressive list of dangers to cats that are outdoors so that is definitely not the answer. As we’ve become more urbanized the risks outweigh the benefits by far. Of course you could compromise by buying or building an outdoor cat enclosure so they can feel sunshine yet be safe – check out one option at, or google catios for lots of ideas. But we can also enrich our indoor cats’ lives by giving them the experience of hunting (there are hundreds of interactive toys on the market and you only need two-10-minute play sessions a day to keep your kitty happy), followed by a small meal or treat. Play is a positive release for pent-up energy and can help build the confidence of a timid or shy cat.

Cats are both preys and predators and need both high places and hiding spots to feel safe. So easy to do in the home! Jackson Galaxy, the Cat Daddy, coined the term “catify” to describe making the home more cat friendly. You can buy climbing trees and tunnels or just get creative and put a cat bed up on a bookcase and cut out windows in a cardboard box. Most conflicts between animals are because of perception of limited resources that need to be guarded.  Make sure there are plenty of high and low sleeping spots, multiple food and water dishes (instead of one big bowl) in various places, lots of scratching posts and multiple litterboxes in safe locations and you’ve reduced the reasons for conflict.

I love sharing simple ideas that can have such a powerful positive effect on our pets’ lives.  If you’ve built a cat enclosure or special climbing post, came up with a fun game or catified your house in some way please post pictures on our Facebook page. It would be great to start sharing these good ideas so we can all make our cats happier. That is our job as their parents after all!

Puppy Envy!

Puppy Envy!

OK, I admit it. I’m consumed with puppy envy! My sister just adopted the cutest little puppy and since she doesn’t live close by, I get to follow him via Facebook.  I want to snuggle his furry little body and smell puppy breath! I guess it’s hitting me harder than when she adopted a puppy a couple years ago since then I was set with my two dogs and could only think back to the one time I did adopt an 8-week-old pup and how difficult that was! Since then I have always said “been there, done that – never again!” Having a puppy is a lot of work, especially if you are serious about trying to do it right.

First you have to be aware of the two fear imprint stages (8-12 weeks and about 8-10 months).  This is a time when a scary event, sudden noise, a too rough dog, friend, etc. could have lasting effects on your dog.  Enough to make you want to put the pup into a safety bubble!  But on the other hand according to Dr. Ian Dunbar, puppies have a critical socializing period between eight weeks and four months where they need to be exposed to other animals, surfaces, sounds and at least 100 new people each week in order to be a well adjusted, social, friendly, fearless dog as an adult. Uh huh – you read that right!  Just like some people go into parenting assuming they will instinctively know what to do, too many people assume that if you provide food and water and a bit of exercise that puppies will grow up to be good dogs automatically.

I guess the down side is I know enough to be frightened of the responsibility! My one and only puppy was a real learning experience for me. It was back when I was just starting in the animal welfare field and, of course, I thought I knew everything! She was allowed to come to work with me so she had a very stimulating environment. It’s amazing how quickly a puppy can do damage though. I left her loose in my bedroom (in a rental house) for less than two minutes while I ran to the bathroom and when I returned she had chewed a hole through the plaster of the wall.  Right in the center of the room. I have no idea why. But that cost a pretty penny to have it patched and painted.

The biggest mistake I made raising Shana, was that I wanted a dog as a friend and treated her that way instead of being the parent and setting rules and making sure she followed them. As she matured it became apparent that I was not her leader and that made her both insecure and confused. I didn’t realize that raising a youngster meant saying “no” sometimes and having consistent repercussions for disobedience. That was back in the day when training was a bit more coercive and we used choke chains to get dogs to do our bidding. Training meant putting on the chain and doing 10 minutes of sit, stay, down and come.  I didn’t realize that training was really what happened the other 23 hours and 50 minutes of the day! I would do things so differently now.

I guess the reason that this time I am envious, rather than pitying my sister for all the work she has before her, is that I’m down to just one dog at the moment and have begun the search for a second. My current dog can be selective about his dog friends so I have to be careful in my selection. My husband has also requested that since we’ve taken on a few dogs with behavioral issues it would be nice to just have a friendly easy dog (is there really such a thing?).  Which makes me think maybe I should just raise one! But my husband is against a puppy and he also has to agree to our next canine. So I just wait for the next cute video of my new pup-nephew and give my two cents of advice when asked. Can’t wait to meet him!

One-month countdown

One-month countdown

Only one month left before our fees go up – including animal licenses! Licenses for altered dogs and cats will go from $12 to $18 and if your pet isn’t fixed yet, (what are you waiting for?) it will go from $30 to $36. If your license is due soon I suggest you renew it now and get one more year at the lower fee. If you’ve never licensed your pet before, now is a very good time to do so since the late fee is also increasing from $15 to $25, which is a bigger slap on the hand, and will hopefully motivate more people to license their pets, (if being legally required wasn’t enough motivation for you).

Why should you license, you ask? Besides feeding government pockets what’s the point of a license? Well there are several reasons to license your animals besides being required by law (although being a law abiding citizen is a good thing in and of itself – and sets you up as a role model to your children and neighbors).

It’s been shown that people are more apt to help a lone dog or cat if it’s wearing a collar and tag showing clearly that s/he is a lost pet vs. a feral animal. A collar and tag shows the world that this is a loved family member and a license is traceable and can help reunite a lost pet with his worried parents. A microchip is a good back-up for that just in case the tag falls off – or is removed – but a visible tag is the first layer of protection that all pets should have.

A current license also indicates that the animal is up-to-date on his rabies vaccine. That’s actually how licensing got started – as visible proof of rabies protection. Through a diligent program of vaccination we are able to control the spread of rabies in our pet population. It is still out there though in wildlife such as bats, raccoons and foxes so we can’t become complacent. Rabies is zoonotic, which means humans can get it and there still is no known cure once infection has taken hold. If you are bit by an unvaccinated animal, or one with an unknown vaccine history, you might have to go through a series of anti-rabies shots – which is no fun at all! If all animals had on their license tags you could tell at a glance that the dog or cat that bit you at least had a rabies vaccine once (can’t tell without looking up the license number if the vaccine is still current). That is helpful information if you weren’t able to catch the animal to quarantine.

License fees are also used to pay for animal services in the community. The City run’s a (very nice, I might say) animal shelter so that the lost pets in Rohnert Park and Cotati have someplace safe to go while waiting to be reclaimed. Running animal services costs a lot and license fees offset some of that expense. It would be nice, and more fair, if all pet owners paid their share instead of the burden falling on those who comply willingly (or have been caught and made to comply). It is estimated that there are approximately 22,500 dogs and cats living in Rohnert Park. If everyone licensed their pets it would cover the costs of all the services, we provide!

So here’s your chance to step up and make your pet legal while the fees are still at their lower amount. The higher rates will take effect on July 1 so take advantage of this last month and get your dogs and cats caught up on their rabies shots and come in for a license (no late fee if you do this voluntarily!).