For years, children’s movies have depicted animal shelters as places to be feared. Whether it’s Chance, Shadow and Sassy or the animated Bolt, Mittens and Rhino trying to find their way home, all animals fear the shelter. And while some do euthanize animals—it was recently revealed that the Humane Society of San Bernardino has been discretely putting down approximately 10,000 animals a year, which caught some by surprise and raised questions about the large volume of animals dispatched via this afterhours practice—other non-profit organizations, like the West End Shelter for Animals in Ontario, dispel the myth.
“The Humane Society takes in all animals that don’t have a home, but they don’t have the capacity to keep them all,” says Anne Lindquist, a full-time volunteer at the West End Shelter. “So, when there [are] just too many they wait their normal grace period that they keep [them] in case there’s an owner looking for their pet . . . They have to take in every animal. They can’t keep them all; there’s just not enough room. For us, we just can’t take any more in when we get too full.”
Since its establishment in 1954, West End Shelter has been housing and adopting out dogs and cats from families and “kill shelters” with the mission statement, “to provide a non-kill alternative to owners for pet housing and adoption of their pets when they must relinquish for various reasons.”
“The shelter has a capacity of 60 dogs and 140 cats,” says Dale Namminga, a board member. “Once in a while we’ll get to capacity, but we get over that pretty fast. For example, last year when the economy was rough, we got quite a few pets in because people couldn’t afford to keep them. On the other hand, we’ll follow it up with a couple good months where we’ll adopt out a lot.”
“We have 120 cats now and I think that’s pretty full. I’d like to get it down but we take in what we can and do what we can,” says Lindquist, who has been with the shelter for about 11 years. “We have about 60 dogs. We try to keep it at full capacity all the time. We might save a place in case an animal is returned.”
Dogs and cats are spayed and/or neutered and come with a free veterinary check-up upon adoption. Cats are tested for FIV/leukemia. The shelter charges an adoption fee depending on size and breed of the animal. Among the animals taken in from families, the shelter also takes in what Namminga calls “adoptable” animals from “kill” shelters.
In contrast, the Humane Society last year euthanized about 800 animals a month, former society president Sue Dawson has said. That rate, 9,600 killings a year, is nearly the same as the amount of animals euthanized—a little over 10,000—by San Bernardino County’s two shelters.
“In 2008, we adopted out 347 cats and 298 dogs,” says Namminga. “We rescue about 10 cats per month from Inland Valley Humane Society in Pomona, and we get about 40 dogs per year from Riverside Animal Control. In the case of dogs, we look for ‘sociable’ animals that the shelter staff feels are easily adoptable. Cats are the same way. Anne looks for healthy cats that ‘get along’ well.”
The shelter also offers low-cost vaccinations, which Lindquist cites as their largest source of income. On May 8 the shelter is hosting its first 5K Walk-n-Wag-a-Thon at Prado Regional Park in Chino to raise money for its Save-A-Pet Rescue Fund and to build a new facility/hospital. The Fund allows West End Animal Shelter to rescue adoptable dogs and cats from kill shelters and bring them to a safe-haven until they have been adopted. More info: www.westendshelter.com.