Category: “Shelter News”

Plenty of reasons exist for the high number of strays

Plenty of reasons exist for the high number of strays

By Mickey Zeldes  March 12, 2015

We post all the stray animals that come through our door on our Facebook page. It has really helped increase the number of animals returned to owners, as people recognize them as either their own missing pet or belonging to a friend or neighbor. Dakota was sure pleased her neighbor “liked” our Facebook page – the neighbor recognized the lost Labrador and knocked on Dakota’s dad’s door immediately, telling him his missing dog was waiting for him at the shelter. Social media, like Facebook, has allowed the community to help lost animals (and those awaiting adoption) by getting the information out to a wide targeted audience. If you haven’t liked our Facebook page yet, please do, and join our team to help save more animals.

The past couple weeks have been unusual in the high number of lost and abandoned animals that have come through our door. One of the comments made on our last stray alert posting was “What’s up with all the stray cats lately?” There are several reasons for the upswing, not the least of which is this is the time of year when all the females come into heat. They are roaming further to find a mate, and males are everywhere vying for the females.

Overall, we get in many more strays than owner-surrendered (unwanted) animals. Actually, if you think about it, that’s mostly what a shelter is for – a safe place for a lost pet to wait until reclaimed by his or her family. Any pet can become lost: an indoor cat sneaks outside when a door is accidentally left ajar; a fence blows down during a storm; the gardener, PG&E meter reader, contractor, (fill in the blank) left the gate open; burglars broke a window so the cat escaped; or the pet sitter wasn’t vigilant with a known escape artist. The excuses, I mean “reasons,” go on and on, but the point is that a pet can escape from anyone, at any time.

The bigger question, I think, is why are all these strays still at the shelter? Why aren’t all of them reunited with their families? What a shelter should be is a temporary (emphasis on that word) holding facility just until the guardian gets off work or gets back in town to claim their pet. Every pet should be required to have a registered microchip – of course, they are already required to have a registered license and we all know how well that system works – so they have a way to be identified and the guardians contacted. Imagine that – a lost pet comes in, is scanned and a microchip found, the owner is contacted and they come in to claim their pet. It’s that easy.

Case in point: Fifi was found running around a local elementary school and was brought to the shelter by a Rohnert Park Dept. of Public Safety officer. The scared little Chihuahua was not wearing a collar and had no visible form of identification on her. Using a handheld scanner we quickly picked up a microchip implanted under her skin, and through the website where the chip was registered were able to activate an alert (the alert sends out a text, email and voice message that the animal is at the shelter and repeats for four days). Within a half hour the owner was there to claim her errant dog. Hardly needed to set up a cage for that one!

The Animal Shelter League has been providing our community with free microchips for several years, so you would think every stray animal in Rohnert Park and Cotati would have that kind of happy ending. If your pet became lost, would he have a happy ending? Bring your cats and dogs by the shelter during our open hours (Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 1-5:30 p.m. and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.). No appointment necessary for a free microchip. Then “like” our Facebook page and help us return every lost pet back home.

Animal neglect rare locally, but sadly still it happens

Animal neglect rare locally, but sadly still it happens
By Mickey Zeldes  March 6, 2015 12:00 am
Fortunately, we don’t see much serious animal neglect in Rohnert Park. Nothing like what they see in some of the other parts of the country or even in more rural parts of California. We are lucky in that. When we do see an animal in need of attention it’s usually just a poodle type of dog or a longhaired cat with matted fur. Granted that is a very uncomfortable condition and can cause skin issues but it’s not life threatening.When an animal like that comes into the shelter as a stray, we can help directly by cleaning her up and giving her the grooming needed or if reclaimed by an owner we can require them to remedy the situation. If someone calls in concerned about an animal in their neighborhood, we can have an officer go out and do a welfare check to see if the complaint is warranted. If so, we can, again, require the owner to take care of the animal. The tricky ones are when an animal comes in with their owner for some other reason, perhaps for a free microchip or to buy a license and we notice signs of neglect.

We certainly don’t want to discourage people from coming to the shelter or from taking advantage of our services when we are out in the community by being heavy handed. Usually, we hope that it’s just from a lack of knowledge or awareness and try the gentle education approach first. Some people don’t really know about the health concerns that come with a heavy flea infestation or with severe dental disease. They think it’s just a cosmetic nuisance and keep putting off dealing with it. Usually, just having the discussion with people about what the problem is and how important it is to deal with it sooner rather than later is enough to resolve the situation.

This topic came to mind as we had two such situations just this week – a Persian cat came in for a microchip (yay!) and had mats all over the belly (not visible to the eye – and the fur on the top of the cat was OK so you wouldn’t know about the problem unless you reached under her belly for some reason) and the poor dear was crawling with fleas. When the owner was shown the condition of the fur on the cat’s underside she was shocked and embarrassed and agreed to have it taken care of. The second animal was a miniature poodle that came in stray. He also had lots of mats. It’s amazing how many owners don’t groom their pets during the winter thinking they need their coat for warmth during the cool weather and then strip them in the spring. Grooming has to be done regularly for the animal’s comfort and health. Letting them get completely matted to the point that their legs are hobbled together and then stripping them down completely should not be the norm. Take a moment to run your hands over your pet – I mean really go through the fur everywhere, under the arms, in the groin area, under the ears (if they are the droopy kind) and see if you feel any mats or see any fleas. Now would be a great time to take care of them!

Feline Herpes Shouldn’t Stop Adoption!

Feline Herpes Shouldn’t Stop Adoption!

By Mickey Zeldes  January 23, 2015

Vincent and Vanille are two very sweet, although a tad shy, teenagers that have spent most of their lives growing up in our shelter. They were rescued as tiny kittens from a field and sent into a foster home to be tamed down. That was last May. Because of recurring upper respiratory colds, they have been in and out of our sick bay. They probably have herpes (hard to definitively diagnose), which is very manageable with good care and would most likely improve quickly once they were out of the stressful shelter environment. But it’s amazing how many people balk when they hear the word herpes.

Herpes is a virus. People get herpes as well as other animals (feline herpes is not contagious to humans). Being a virus, there’s not really a medicine to cure it. Vaccines, however, can prevent it. Most healthy animals fight off viruses, but if someone is immune compromised or young, and has an immature immune system (like most orphaned kittens) or is under a great deal of stress (like being in a shelter – hello!) their body may not be as able to fight it off. The symptoms often show up primarily in the eyes – they get squinty, red and runny, and they sometimes have other cold symptoms; like sneezing, lethargy, congestion and lack of appetite.

Very young kittens that have a severe case of herpes can have their eyes permanently affected, but for most adult cats it’s just uncomfortable. Viruses are contagious (to other similar animals – feline herpes is contagious to other cats) but only when there is a full-blown outbreak. It can go into remission until the animal is sick with something else and the immune system is down again or until another stress comes into their lives (moving homes, for example).

From personal experience I can tell you that living with a herpes cat is really not a big deal (granted this is a study of just one subject). I have two dogs, four adult cats and foster dozens of kittens through my house each year, so my home is anything but tranquil. One of my cats has herpes and periodically will get symptoms of the runny eyes. None of my other cats or kittens have shown evidence of infection, so it seems that general standards of cleanliness is enough to contain the spread.

Although there is no “cure” for herpes, the most helpful thing I’ve found is giving her a daily dose of Lysine, an amino acid that promotes the immune system. Most pet stores sell it (herpes is very common), and it comes both as a powder you can sprinkle on the food or a tasty gel you can have them just lick up. My cat prefers the gel, and we just squirt it in her mouth from a syringe as a treat. It keeps her outbreaks to a minimum and shortens the duration.

Because cats with herpes are considered immune compromised and sensitive to stress, it is recommended they live indoors. Other than that and making sure they have high quality food and lots of love, they are no different than any other pet cat. We know that Vincent and Vanille would thrive once out of the shelter and even come more out of their shell once in a home of their own. They are hoping to be adopted together as they’ve never been apart since the day we found them in the field. Surely, someone out there is willing to open their hearts to this sweet pair of kittens? Is that you?

A look back on 2014

A look back on 2014

By Mickey Zeldes  December 26, 2014

This time of year always makes me nostalgic, so it’s appropriate to look back and reflect on the year. We had lots of highlights and positive things happen this year of which we are quite proud. We started the year on a positive note by creating a new position of Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator. One of our long time employees took on that role and has helped to grow both programs.

Our adoption outreach program included monthly visits to Unleashed by Petco on Yulupa Avenue as well as to events as far away as Jack London Square for a huge adopt-a-thon and participation in both the Bay Area Pet Fair and the Northern California Pet Expo. We had a presence at the Rohnert Park Farmer’s Market every Friday night and appreciated the opportunity to highlight one of our adoptable animals on stage as part of the entertainment.

We offered our popular Bunny Days each month. The public is invited to bring their rabbits for free nail trims and to shop at our Bunny Boutique for fresh hay, treats and toys. This opportunity to showcase our wonderful, friendly rabbits has resulted in a big increase in adoptions and a chance to help educate and connect with other bunny people.

The most exciting thing this past year is we held our first two wellness clinics at local mobile home parks. This offered the mostly low-income residents of the parks an opportunity to have a free health exam for their dogs and cats as well as free vaccinations, wormings, flea product, microchip and ID tag. We talked to everyone about our fix-it clinics and offered to schedule appointments for free cat spays and neuters and very low-cost surgeries for their dogs. We saw more than 80 animals at these clinics and felt it was a great bridge to people who wouldn’t necessarily know about or use our services. We hope to do at least two more next year and really appreciate the financial support of the Animal Shelter League and FAIRE to allow us to provide this program.

We also expanded our education program and, again, with support from FAIRE adopted the Monte Vista Elementary School as our first Humane School. Every teacher received a subscription to the wonderful newspaper, KIND news, to share with his or her students throughout the school year. We supplemented this with classroom presentations by our educator and an animal ambassador. We are continuing with Monte Vista this year and gradually hope to add another school to the program to reach even more students.

Speaking of students, we held another seven weeks of our fun and educational summer camp. This popular program brings kids in grades 2-7 here for a weeklong chance to really learn about pet care and interact with the shelter animals. Through a variety of guest speakers, videos, arts and crafts, and fieldtrips, we get the message across about the importance of spaying and neutering, microchips and ID tags, responsible pet care, respect for wildlife and empathy for other creatures.

Social media is very popular and has been one of the most valuable new avenues to help promote adoptable animals and help the lost pets that come through our door get reunited with their families. The shelter has a Facebook page ( where we post all incoming strays and it’s amazing how many people find their lost pets that way! One goal we did not achieve this year was to have 5000 “likes” on our Facebook page to increase our team helping animals. The easiest way you can help all our shelter animals, without leaving your house or spending a dime, is to share our stories with your Facebook friends. Please consider joining us by liking our page and become part of our social media team helping animals.

There was so much else going on this past year – Amnesty Week for pet licenses; our 5th annual Mutt Strut, a fun day that raised over $10,000 for the ASL; our monthly Fix-it clinics, where we altered 173 cats for free and 80 dogs at low-cost, and more. We could just go on and on. But I’ll stop here and say it was a great year and we hope, with your support, to do it all again in 2015.

Register now to enter the Mutt Strut!

Register now to enter the Mutt Strut!

By Mickey Zeldes

The Mutt Strut is coming. This is exciting news to dog lovers in Sonoma County. It’s a special day that celebrates everything canine. We’re busy lining up exciting demonstrations, soliciting pet related vendors, getting arts and crafts ready for the kids’ area and more, so reserve Saturday, Sept. 27, now on your calendar so you won’t miss the fun.

The Mutt Strut Dog Walk and Pet Fair is also a fundraiser for the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. So, your part is to sign up now to walk the easy, one-mile creek side path and solicit pledges from your friends, family and co-workers. Minimum registration for the walk is $10 and provides an event bandana for your dog. The first 150 pre-registered walkers with a minimum $50 in pledges will receive a Mutt Strut t-shirt and a goodie bag filled with samples, coupons and other special items. There are prizes for reaching various levels of funds with the highest individual fundraiser winning the rights for their dog to be next year’s spokes-pup with his or her photo used in all our publicity materials. Check out this year’s cute spokes-pup on the flyers posted around town.

You can register and design your free sponsorship page at It’s easy and it’s fun to see the pledges roll in. Go to that link and read more about our event, then click on the green “Get Started” button, located on the right side of the screen. The next screen will have a box labeled “Fundraiser Name.” This is the name you want to give you and your dog (do not just put Mutt Strut), so be creative. Then click on the green “Start Fundraising” button. It will walk you through the steps of adding photos, writing a blurb about why you are walking (if your dog is an RPAS alumni, be sure to mention that), what your fundraising goal is (shoot for the moon – your pup wants you to win, right?), and how to ask for pledges using Facebook and your email contacts.

Of course, paper sponsor forms are also available either on the website or at the shelter. Make it even more fun by creating a “pack” and walking together with your co-workers (why not throw a fundraising challenge at another department or rival business?) or friends. There is a prize for the highest fundraising pack, so start gathering your cohorts together now and come up with a fun theme.

The Pet Fair part of the event is free for all to attend, and there will be more details to come as we pull together the schedule and line up a dynamic roster of demonstrations, contests, speakers, book signers and more. We’re also soliciting donations of goodies for a wonderful raffle and silent auction, and it’s not too late to become a vendor (do you make/sell pet related items? This is the perfect target audience) or sponsor. Contact the Animal Shelter League of RP at (707) 523-9420 for more information or email

This is our community’s event to celebrate the pets in our lives. We invite your participation and support and look forward to seeing you at the Mutt Strut.

First Wellness Clinic a Success!

First Wellness Clinic a Success!
By Mickey Zeldes June 20, 2014
There is a population in our city of low-income pet owners that want to do right by their pets but simply cannot afford the luxury of vet care, especially non-urgent routine things like vaccinations and wormings. Some of these animals have never received protection against common diseases, and for some it simply fell by the wayside as the economy tanked. We wanted to do something to help these animals and their owners and decided to hold our first Wellness Clinic.

Together with Forgotten Felines, we targeted one of the mobile home parks that for years has been a steady source of incoming animals to the shelter. We know there are lots of free-roaming and feral cats in this park and lots of people feeding them. The trick would be to see if we could find out who they are so we could offer services to support their work and reduce the cat population. With spay and neuter as our primary goal, and our “No More Lost Pet” campaign as our secondary goal, we decided to see if we could lure some of the more responsible animal people to our event. We offered a free health exam, free vaccinations, free de-wormer, free flea control products, free microchips, free pet ID tags, on site sign-ups for our free cat spays/neuter, free nail trims and food (figured if all else fails, everyone has to eat and how often do you get offered a free meal?).

In spite of that, we weren’t sure what kind of turnout to expect. Guesses ranged anywhere from three people to 100. My vet tech and I had gone to observe a similar clinic put on by an organization called “Compassion Without Borders” that targets the Hispanic communities in Santa Rosa, Sonoma and Napa. They had more than 100 animals at that one, with people willing to wait a couple of hours (on a hot day) in order to get what was being offered for the pets they loved. We lined up a veterinarian willing to donate his services (thank you Dr. Roger Klein), a team of vet techs and experienced veterinary assistants, a professional groomer who offered the nail trims (thank you Cathy Davis, muddy paws…), some bilingual volunteers to help with translating and a lot more hard working volunteers to set it all up and run the various booths. It took a small army of people to pull this thing off.

Of course, we have to thank the Animal Shelter League for funding this venture. It certainly was not in the shelter’s budget to do a project like this and giving all these things away for free does cost a tidy penny. We also thank the management of the Rancho Verde Mobile Home Park for allowing us to come and host this event and to Debbie Lucchessi, a park resident and passionate cat lover, for her help handing out flyers to every single resident of the park, not once, but twice so everyone would be sure to know about it.

Last Saturday was the big day and it was a huge success. We saw 69 animals and had to turn some away or we would have never been able to leave. People brought their pets and waited in line for up to an hour and a half for the chance to have them looked at by a veterinarian and to receive the shots and other services needed. We had quite a production line going – with health exams in one spot and vaccines, wormer, microchip and simple treatments in another, nail trims at a separate station and our tag machine and literature at yet another.

It was a long day and our poor vet never had a chance to take even a short lunch break. He examined and chatted with every owner of the 69 pets seen that day – explaining over and over again about the need for good flea control, why spay/neuter is so important, and how dental care could extend their pets life. We heard over and over again big, heartfelt thank you’s and that made it all worthwhile. That and knowing that 69 animals were protected from distemper, parvo and fleas, had a microchip in case they became lost, and 12 were scheduled for our fix-it clinic on the spot with the clinic’s phone number distributed to many more.

It was a fulfilling day and one that we hope to repeat at other hot-spots in our city. Donations to the ASL will help to fund these clinics on an on-going basis. Our goal is to continue being pro-active and community-oriented.

Why Do Good Dogs Get Overlooked?

Why Do Good Dogs Get Overlooked?

By Mickey Zeldes June 6, 2014 12:00 am

Why do some of the nicest dogs sit here for such a long time? We can have a dog with all kinds of problems come up for adoption and walk out the door the same day, and a really great dog will sit here for months. I have a hard time figuring it out and all but gave up guessing which animals would be popular and adopted quickly. I often tend to be wrong.

We, as well as every shelter in California, have an abundance of Chihuahuas and pit bulls – and they are getting harder and harder to find homes for. Myths, fears, media hysteria, landlord restrictions and peer pressure all add to the difficulty in finding homes for pit bulls, and for Chihuahuas, it’s simply a matter of more supply than demand.

You would think something different like a sweet little poodle or nice tempered little terrier mix would fly out our door, but they don’t always. You can never predict what will grab someone’s heart, which is also why it’s impossible to adopt an animal for someone else.

We currently have one of the nicest dogs that has come through here in a long time, and he’s been sitting here since February. He’s very friendly, greeting people with a lick and wag when he is in the front office and tries to engage you with a game of fetch. We’re trying to figure out why he is continuously overlooked.

Is he not being adopted because of his size? At 75 pounds, he isn’t small, but he’s nothing compared to the 90-pound Labradoodle that just flew out our door. Is it because of his age? At just over 1 year, he is sort of a goofy teenager and certainly in need of more training. Because he was available when the students from Bergin University learning about dog training did their internship here, he got the benefit of some skilled handling and training and proved to be a super smart and motivated student. He actually has improved during his time here – whereas most dogs would start deteriorating with cage stress.

Could he be overlooked because of his skin rash? It’s not serious and doesn’t even look that bad and could just be how he is showing his stress. We have him on a special diet to avoid common food allergens and a treatment of antibiotics. Certainly, this is nothing as severe as many other dogs that have come and gone in the past few months.

Is it because he is not rated to go to a home with a cat? We don’t know he would hurt one, but because he is such a rowdy player we thought it best to not put a cat at risk. He certainly does not have a history of being a cat killer, and we often have dogs available that we know would bark endlessly or annoy cats too much (which he doesn’t do) and they find homes.

He has an endearing name – Hero – that lends itself to all sorts of marketing jingles. Everyone loves a Hero. Need to be rescued from loneliness? We have a Hero just ready to save you. He is a handsome boy, friendly with other dogs and very people social. He loves to play fetch and splash in our kiddie pool and would be a great dog for sturdy kids.

So, could it just be that he is a pit bull mix? Really? Is there no one out there that can see past the breed name to the wonderful dog sitting in our kennel? Come stop by and meet Hero – maybe you can save each other.

We LOVE our volunteers

We LOVE our volunteers

We love our volunteers and hope they know it!  We try to express appreciation throughout the year but one time annually we gather together to acknowledge all that these wonderful people have done for us and the animals.  This past Sunday was our yearly Volunteer Appreciation Party and although all 165 of our active volunteers couldn’t be with us that evening, we celebrated with those that could attend.

Our volunteers do a million things for us – everything from clean the kennels and cages; assist the veterinarian and vet tech with health exams and surgeries; fold laundry, answer phones, facilitate adoptions, wash dishes, update our website, hang pictures, build shelves, pull weeds, walk dogs, staff outreach events, stuff envelopes, cuddle cats, host monthly bunny days, input data, wash out litterpans, greet the public, bunny socialize, make copies, foster kittens, paint our walls, fundraise, file paperwork, post fliers, take photos, temperament test our dogs, foster special need animals – I’ll stop here but you get the point.  Volunteers are people that keep us organized, keep us sparkling clean, and keep us moving forward!  We absolutely couldn’t do all that we do for the animals and people in our community without all this help.

This year we recognized the contributions of 34 special volunteers based on their hours of service.  Please congratulate (and thank) the following people:

1500+ hours – Amy Isquith, Suzy Melvin, Lara Shearer, Casey Watts

1000 hours – Todd Coleman

500 hours – Debbie Ecklehoff, Diane Baglion, Nancy Gillett, Erin Thompson, Victoria Thomas, Tina Hrebick

100 hours-Katt Hess, Mayher Ratra, Nicholas Allen, Cari Most, Tamy Chichkanoff, Alisha Parkinson, Nathalie Rossi, Paula Flores, Judi Nelson, Christina Parsley, Megan Rosenberger, Amber Sharp

Junior Volunteer with 500+ hours –Sophie Spencer

Junior Volunteer with 100+ hours – Kacey Herrell, Sarah Ramos, Alex Palmigiano, Sarah Wood

Foster Parents – over 10 Animals last year – Kayte Taylor, Helen Crosby, Cheryl Vargas, Naomi Garland, Jill Zschach, Pauline Tong

We added up the number of hours (of those who remembered to record them and it doesn’t include the foster parents) of all the volunteers who helped us and in 2013 they racked up an impressive 11,571 hours which is the equivalent of having 5.5 full-time employees every week! For a small staff that is a huge boost in (wo)manpower!

Would you like to see your name on this list?  We are ever growing our volunteer corps, and could always use a few more committed, good people!  We ask our volunteers to make pick one job and make a solid weekly commitment.  There is more information and brief job descriptions as well as application forms available at our website, and at the shelter.  We will be holding our next adult volunteer orientation on Saturday, June 7, at 10:00a.m.  Join us in helping the animals in our community.  We’d love to be honoring you next year!

5 Things to Consider When Adopting a New Pet

5 Things to Consider When Adopting a New Pet

Thinking about adopting a new pet? Here’s some good advice on 5 things to consider first. Read this article by Nick Walden in the Press Democrat.

The Secret Life of Dog Catchers

The Secret Life of Dog Catchers

Did you know we have a celebrity animal control officer in our county? Shirley Zindler has been with the Sonoma County Animal Care and Control since 2001, the last 10 years as an officer.

In 2012 she published a book that is a compilation of short stories telling about her adventures and various situations she had to deal with as an officer, appropriately titled “The Secret Life of Dog Catchers.” It is interesting, well written and really enjoyable. I learned a lot about what an officer does and even picked up a few tips that might come in handy at my shelter.

What comes through loud and clear, though, is Shirley’s compassion and passion for animals and people. I think everyone who has worked in this field has at one time or another had someone say to them, “I could never do what you do, I love animals too much.” What does that mean? That we don’t? Yes, if we were overly sentimental and sensitive we probably couldn’t stomach some of what we have to do. But it is because we love animals that we choose to work with, and for them, every single day. I always want to ask those people “so what are you doing to help them?” Crying hasn’t saved a single animal.

I love that Shirley has described a full gamut of the type of calls an animal control officer has to face. She has dealt with wildlife problems, cock fights, pit bulls, pit bull owners, people appreciative that she’s rescued their pets, people angry that she’s impounded their pets, injured animals, abused horses…the list goes on and on. Certainly she’s had experiences that I would never have thought an animal control officer would have to deal with. Some are scary, some are sad, lots are happy. Each story has a message. I would be interested to know if that’s apparent to the average reader or if I’m just seeing it because of my connection to the work.

Although, of course, Shirley got to pick which stories to include, and she comes off looking quite the hero in many of the situations, she is honest about the dangers, the falls and injuries, the late night calls and sleepless nights, as well as the physical energy required in the job. If you are at all considering a career in animal control (or have a teen that might be interested), or are just curious about the job and what it entails, I highly recommend this book. It should be required reading for anyone applying for that job to see if they have that level of compassion and the stomach for all aspects of the work. You can order a copy from Amazon for just $11.66. Shirley is donating part of the proceeds from this book back to animal welfare organizations – of course.

What I like best is that every short chapter is a separate story, so you can read it in little bits. We’re thinking of incorporating some of the stories into our camp program and giving the kids a taste of a day in the life of an animal control officer. Despite the title of the book, they really don’t like to be called dog catchers anymore. And after reading this book, you can see the name dog catcher doesn’t even begin to cover the depth of experiences they deal with on a daily basis. My hat is off to them for a good job. Our county is lucky to have officers like Shirley out there protecting us and our cover