Peaceful Protest Asking Reform for Clear the Shelter Events in Tustin

by Denise Carey-Costa

On Saturday August 18th, 2018, a Peaceful Protest was held in front of the Orange County Animal Care building at 1630 Victory Road, Tustin, California. Approximately 35 protesters gathered to protest the lax adoption practices during the annual Clear the Shelter event.

The new shelter director of Orange County Animal Care, Mike Kaviani, did come out and speak to the protesters. He answered many questions and did admit that while the shelter has improved over the last 6 months, there was still work to be done and improvements to be made.

In addition to protesting current adoption practices, those who assembled were also there to pay homage to the dog named Valerie/Cargo who was adopted from the Orange County Shelter on July 23, 2018 and then found dumped on the 200 block of 85th Street in South Central Los Angeles on August 6, 2018. When the dog was rescued by Ghetto Rescue FFoundation (GRFF) and taken to a vet, it was determined the dog had been sexually assaulted, was severely emaciated and had died because of a ruptured aorta caused by blunt force trauma. Witnesses to the act advised they had seen two black males in a small car dump the dog on the sidewalk where she was left for eighteen hours before being rescued.

Clear the Shelters is an annual, nationwide pet adoption event that strives to place unwanted shelter pets with adopters. This is done by offering potential adopters waived or reduced adoption fees for one day.

It all sounds ideal on paper, however, due to lack of background checks, and thorough questioning of these potential adopters, oftentimes these pets end up in the hands of abusers or those who simply neglect them.  In theory, if a potential pet owner cannot afford to pay an adoption fee, how are they going to pay for the upkeep, care and feeding of their new-found pet?

And for the serial animal abuser, Clear the Shelter events are like Christmas for them; an easy way to get their next victims.

It is understandable that shelters would want to try to clear out the animals in their care, due to the high intake numbers and having to euthanize animals due to overpopulation. But are they really doing a service to the animals entrusted in their care by handing them over to abusers with few questions asked? There has to be a better way to vet potential adopters.

Organizers of the Peaceful Protest, Justyne Moore and Laurie Boutte Simino have compiled a list of suggestions to present to Mike Kaviani. This list includes but is not limited to; setting up a photo booth to take adoption photos of the adopter and the dog; then scanning that photo with the driver’s license or other identification and attaching it to the adoption paperwork.

Also, setting up a registry system like Megan’s Law, (a registry for sex offenders) for animal abusers, a no adopt list, etc. and making it accessible to all shelters nationwide. In addition there could be a volunteer base to help check personal references, veterinarians’ reference, etc. listed on the adoption application.

How about setting up a volunteer base to track adoptions at the Clear the Shelter events? How many dogs/cats were adopted, how many were returned, how many ended up dumped, abused and needing medical attention, how many ended up in a rescue organization, or died, like Valerie/Cargo, after a Clear the Shelter event?

Although Justyne and Laurie are not California residents and could not attend the protest, the story of Valerie/Cargo hit them very hard. They worked diligently to get the protest to happen from their home states of Utah and Texas. They are staunch advocates, who also run the Facebook advocacy group Ollie’s Warriors; seeking justice for another murdered dog.

Clear the Shelter events are never going to go away, however, the adoption/application process must be more stringent and thorough so that more animals do not suffer the horrible fate that Valerie/Cargo did. It’s more than tragic that a healthy, beautiful dog who was so excited and happy to be going to a new life, ended up emaciated, injured, and near death after only two weeks out of the shelter.

And now the Los Angeles Police Department and their Animal Cruelty Task Force are denying that Valerie/Cargo was ever abused. They are basically sweeping the case under the carpet.

A reward, funded by the A and T Napoleon Foundation and Rebel Dog Rescue is offered for information leading to the arrest of her abusers. The reward is currently at $9,000.00.

The primary mission of any animal shelter should not be to maximize adoption expenses of the animal’s safety and well-being. The primary mission of any shelter should be to protect its impounded animals. Hopefully the move for change at Orange County Animal Care will set a precedent for the rest of the nation to follow suit.

First published in Pet Rescue Report

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