View From Lodi, CA: Support Your Local Pet Shelter!
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Every year, The Humane Society of the United States, in conjunction with The Fund for Animals, creates a federal Humane Scorecard.

The scorecard gives readers a summary of animal protection issues that Congress considered over the year and allows constituents to see if their legislators are voting pro or con on bills designed to protect animals.

California's two Senators—Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer—earned scores of 100+ from the HSUS while San Joaquin County Congressman Richard Pombo received a disappointingly low total of only 10.

Among the most pressing animal issues that the Senate will consider this year is the Pet Animal Welfare Statute, PAWS, that seeks to end mass breeding operations commonly referred to as "puppy mills."  

All animal lovers remember the devastation that Hurricane Katrina leveled on tens of thousands of pets along the Gulf Coast region of the southeastern U.S.

In response, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Senator John Ensign (R-NV) pressed President George W. Bush to designate an individual to coordinate the federal government's response to coordinate animal rescue efforts during emergencies or natural disasters.

Ensign, a Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine from Colorado State University, won the HSUS "Humane Legislator of the Year" award.

The encouraging Congressional actions are a true indication of American's love affair with their pets.

Nothing gave greater evidence of this that the outpouring of affection shown after Katrina, now acknowledged as the largest animal rescue operation in history.

When Katrina struck New Orleans, Louisiana's more than 250,000 pets - from cats and dogs to parrots and fish - were stranded by the devastating storm.

Owners racing to safety expected to return home after only a few days. But days turned into weeks. Pets had to struggle to survive without supplies, medical treatment or, most importantly, the love and affection of their owners.

One of the veterinarians on the scene was Dr. Debra Campbell who currently works on the Department of Homeland Security's Veterinarian Medical Assistant Team.

Campbell, who lives in Boston with 11 cats and dogs, recommends that people who are moved by the rescue efforts of her compassionate staff volunteer at their local shelter.

Lodians are blessed with dedicated professionals at the Animal Shelter. Other tireless, all-volunteer groups support them. Collectively, they work long hours for the safety, comfort and ultimately the adoption of needy pets.

The three principle support groups are:

Last week, I ran into PALS president Daunis Bradshaw at Robinson's Feed. PALS manages a seven-days-a-week feline adoption center at Robinson's and Bradshaw was busily tending to cages and showing off cats to shoppers.

Bradshaw told me that she is very excited about the new adoption center adjacent to the Animal Shelter. Scheduled to be open in February, Bradshaw said that the brand new facility will make it much easier to adopt out pets. At the same time, the new modular unit will make precious space available at the existing shelter for a medical triage unit.

"The animal shelter was built in 1960 more than 40 years ago. Since that time, Lodi's human population has tripled and so has its pet population," Bradshaw said.

Acknowledging that the struggle for money is always present, Bradshaw said that the original goal of raising $50,000 by January fell way short.

"The real goal is saving animal lives," according to Bradshaw. "Having deeper pockets would mean we could place more abandoned cats and dogs."

Jeanie Biskup, Special Services Manager of the Lodi Police Department, confirmed what Bradshaw told me.

According to Biskup,

"Lodians are excited about the added space and the fact that we will be able to provide a more comfortable facility for our animals waiting for adoption."

But, added Biskup,

"We can always use more assistance at the Animal Shelter.  We work with PALS and Animal Friends Connection. We rely on these
non-profit organizations to help place the shelter adoptable animals,
but they can only do so much."

Biskup concluded,

"Where we could use the help of the community is by addressing the cause of the problem, pet overpopulation. If Lodians would spay or neuter their pets it would greatly reduce the housing and care problems we currently face."

Thankfully, few of us will ever be in a situation like Katrina. But all of us can follow the advice of Campbell by donating our time, money and services to the Lodi Animal Shelter.

And if you're looking for a pet, the Lodi Animal Shelter, Animal Friends Connection and Lodi Cat Connection are the places to go.

By the way, readers might be interested to know that my new cat's name is Rolo.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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