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In need of new homes

‘We see it every year’: Local animal shelters see surge of abandoned pets

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Posted: Thursday, December 23, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 6:21 am, Fri Dec 24, 2010.

Walking with her right shoulder against the wall to help her navigate the adoption office of the Lodi Animal Shelter, a blind Australian shepherd mix named Patience waits for a new owner and home. The 9-year-old dog was found on West Lockeford Street recently after the previous owner presumably dumped her.

Patience is a symbol for a common trend around the holidays: Older cats and dogs turning up at shelters because people can’t afford to pay for their rising medical costs or are making space for new, younger pets.

“We see it every year,” said Officer Jennifer Bender, supervisor of the Lodi Animal Shelter. “People are either clearing room for new pets or are having family over and don’t want an animal in the way. It’s out of sight, out of mind to them.”

Due to a sour economy in San Joaquin County, shelters in and around Lodi have experienced a deluge of abandoned animals in recent weeks. As families continue to cut spending to pay for housing costs, gifts or bills, pets are increasingly finding themselves out in the cold. Others speculate that because adoptions can also increase around Christmas, those giving up pets think the best time to hand over an unwanted companion to a shelter is during the holidays.

Patience, who is housebroken and crate-trained, is one of scores of pets ready to be taken home during the holidays, local animal control officers said. Even though some families simply cannot provide for a pet, animal control officers are requesting that people don’t just abandon animals in desolate areas. They also argue it is humane to consider euthanizing an unwanted older or sick animal instead of dumping it.

“People should think realistically about their pet’s long-term prospects for adoption,” said Inga Fricke, director of sheltering initiative for the Humane Society of the United States. “Sometimes the kindest last gift is humane euthanasia.”

Instead of putting her down, Patience’s former owners left the blind dog with a graying muzzle to fend for herself. She is not microchipped and was not wearing a collar when she was found roaming city streets. No one has reported her missing.

After taking her to a vet, officers learned the dog’s right eye did not form correctly while she developed in her mother’s womb and her left eye likely went blind over the last few years, Bender said. There are no operations that can be done to correct her vision. However, Patience does not require any medications and is in perfect health, Bender said.

“We took her to a vet and her blood panel, hearing and lungs all came back perfect,” she said.

Despite her physical shortcomings, Bender said a suitable owner could take her home immediately because she has already been spayed.

For Patience, a non-active home with older children would be the best environment. She’s affectionate and would benefit from an owner who works part-time or is home for long stretches at a time, Bender said. While she gets along with cats, Patience has experienced problems with dogs who are aggressive or hyper.

“She doesn’t like when dogs get in her face,” Bender said.

Although vets estimate Patience will only live another three to five years, Patricia Sherman of the Animal Friends Connection said families that take older pets into their homes are generally rewarded by adopting the loyal and grateful companions.

“They are so well-mannered and so loving,” she said. “It’s like they almost know what you did for them.”

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

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