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East Bay SPCA Home
The East Bay SPCA saves 
     and improves the lives of cats and dogs and connects
     people and pets in our community.











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Welcome to Shelter Life at the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

We began as the Oakland SPCA in 1874. Today, the East Bay SPCA includes two animal shelters and three clinics in our community.

This is our day.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Waiting patiently to be noticed.

A few weeks ago, we took in a dog from a local county shelter. We were told some story about how the dog ended up there, tested the dog, and called him Wolfgang. After he had been available for adoption a week or so, we had our adoptathon. That day, someone came in saying they were from the breed rescue group for Wolfgang's breed and they wanted him. They would pay the fee, do whatever was necessary...they just wanted to take the dog so they could place him. Our manager explained that the dog wasn't at risk, was doing well and we didn't need help with placement. She said we would call if we did need help. This pissed the person off to no end, demanding the manager's supervisor's name (me) and throwing a fit.

So, I get a message explaining what happened from her point of view. I returned the call the next day, but only after three other breed rescue people had left messages. I had a nice chat with her explaining our process, how we are a little different than other shelters as we have habitats (she said this breed doesn't kennel well), the ability to restrict adoptions (she said this breed doesn't do well with kids), and dog trainers who work with the dog (she said this breed is smart and needs stimulation.) I repeated what the manager had said about not needing their help at this time, but also added that we wouldn't turn over a dog to a rescue group we had never worked with before without some vetting and paperwork. I also asked if she would give a dog over to someone who showed up with no notice demanding the dog. She seemed to understand, thanked me, and I said we would talk again after I had the needed documents. I did say, before we hung up, that I would be happy to have any interested parties that they knew come to see the dog at our facility. I said we would even put the dog on hold if someone was driving a long distance.

Then, the next day, we get a message from the breeder of the dog (yes, they traced this dog back to the breeder) and from another person saying THEY were with the breed rescue group. They both wanted the dog back. I explained everything again to them. I told them each that I was already dealing with someone from the rescue group, but that I would be happy to put the dog on hold if someone was coming from a long distance.

Then, the next day, I get a fax from someone else from this breed rescue basically telling me the first person I spoke with was a complete liar and showing email proof of her deceptive ways. Apparently this first person said that we were holding back the dog as our "trophy bride" since we don't get pure breds often.

It was at that point that I decided I was done with all this nonsense and that if anyone else called about the dog, I would be honest and tell them I was done.

That same day, two different people from the Monterey area called. They heard we had this dog from the breeder and wanted to come meet him. I said sure. The first person could come in three days and the second person could come today. I put the dog on hold, the people drove up, met the dog, fulfilled all of our requirements AND had had this breed of dog before. It was a nice match and they drove back south with Wolfgang. (We called the other person to tell them the adoption had happened.)

I can not tell you how pleased I was that this dog was in a home and I didn't have to talk to anyone else about him again. I had probably spent 3-4 hours on the phone with various people talking about the dog. It was ridiculous.

But what was more ridiculous is that no one would spend this kind of time or energy on a mutt. There is no "mutt breed rescue". No one takes the time to get to the know the dog...they just think the breed they rescue is different and unique and special. And none of them understand how what we do in the shelter is the complete opposite of what the breeders and clubs do with their dogs. We take dogs that end up unwanted in city and county shelters and give them another chance. They create dogs that take away adoptive owners from those same needy dogs sitting waiting in shelters. For every dog bred, that is one fewer dog in the shelter that gets a home.

Anyway, I'm sounding bitter and rambling, so I'd better stop. The whole thing just made me sad. So much time and effort spent rescuing one dog simply because of who his parents were when the real dogs that need rescuing are still waiting patiently to be noticed.

Well said. I can't tell you how irritated I get when people have their minds firmly set on getting a pure bred dog or how much trouble they go through to get one, when there's a perfectly good (in most cases, even better!) dog sitting patiently in a shelter.


Reputable breeders are not nearly the tooth-grinder as are the pet stores and the cursed puppy mills that sell those poor, inbred animals to impulse shoppers at the mall. At least a good breeder will make you wait.

But yeah. I know what you mean.


It's unfortunate that some animals get a better chance than others simply because they are "purebred". Doesn't anyone pay attention to temperament? The only thing that confuses me more is purebred cats. I mean, who can tell the difference if you had two shorthaired cats, one purebred and one not. It's all crazy nonsense.


Not all is lost ..the Pit/Bulldog X, Shiba/Who knows what X,
and the Pit/Who knows what X with
the blue eyes at my house all totally appreciate what you do for
dogs of ALL BREEDS. Sometimes you
just have to hang in there for the animals because the humans, well they'll just drive you nuts :o)


I've been reading your blog for several months now, and I really admire what you do. However, I find this particular post hypocritical, rude, and offensive.

First, kudos the the breeder for offering to take back the dog. How does this imply "For every dog bred, that is one fewer dog in the shelter that gets a home."?

Second, wouldn't letting the breeder or rescue have it back free up the valuable space in your shelter earlier? In fact, if you let the breeder deal with this dog, maybe your potential adopter would have chosen a mutt instead.

Third, what exactly were you trying to accomplish by posting this rant? I am sure I don't know all the facts, however the way this post is written really offended me. I am going to chalk this up to hot weather and hot temperaments flying, but you almost lost me as your supporter today.


when I open my rescue it's going to be for mutts. long live the mixed breed!!!


I do apologize for offending you, and I also agree that it was a bit of a rant!

The situation discussed above was very frustrating to staff, and took a lot of time away from all of our other dogs and cats needing time and attention, so that is my excuse for the rant.

I was pleased that the breeder wanted to get the dog back. Some breeders don’t, so that was nice. I am also pleased there were rescue groups who wanted the dog because I knew that meant if we had trouble adopting him out, he wouldn’t have to stay in a shelter.

Shelters and rescue groups both bring important assets to the table: one thing we provide that a rescue group can’t is traffic. I felt (and still do feel) his best chance at getting a good home, quickly, was with us, based on the number of people who would see daily. We also screen adopters, which is a rescue group’s biggest concern typically. One of the assets that rescue group can bring to the table is a “real” home, even temporary, where dogs who kennel poorly can relax. This wasn’t yet an issue with Wolfgang.

In saying, “for every dog bred, that is one fewer dog in the shelter that gets a home,” I mean that homeless dogs are a factor of the difference between available dogs and the homes wanting them. If there are ten dogs in a shelter and ten people wanting to get a dog, and even just one extra dog is “created” and bought, then that leaves one dog in the shelter, homeless. I realize that some people want a particular kind of dog for looks or temperament or fur length or size, but I don’t believe there is a breed of dog that does not have a rescue group associated with them. There is not a breed that has not shown up in a shelter at some point. So the old excuse, “I can’t find that dog in the shelter, so I had to buy it,” doesn’t hold up. It is an excuse that people who feel guilty about buying instead of adopting use to ease that guilt. It might take a little longer to find the exact type you want in a shelter, but going through a responsible breeder will take quite a bit of time too. (Of course, questionable breeders and puppy mills have puppies available at all times, but at a huge cost to the puppies and the breeding stock in question.)

By keeping this dog, we actually aren’t using valuable space that another dog needs. For the last year or so, we have begun to see a balance in our counties (Alameda and Contra Costa) between the dogs needing homes and the people wanting dogs. Desirable dogs are either being adopted or rescued by other groups rather quickly. This doesn’t include older or sick dogs, or pit bulls, which are not perceived as desirable by many.

One thing many people don’t realize is that local rescue groups are even competing to get certain dogs from the shelters in our community. Virtually all of the private shelters and rescue groups in the Bay Area travel outside the Bay Area to bring in adoptable, desirable dogs for the public. Rather than taking the easy way out and going to the Central Valley every day to pick up some of the many small, cute dogs that are being bred down there non-stop, we focus on the dogs in our community that are truly unwanted. Our first priority remains dogs in Alameda and Contra Costa county shelters. This often means taking on dogs with medical or behavioral issues, and working with them until they are good candidates for adoption.

In the event that we are unable to fill our available spaces with dogs from our community, we do have a relationship with a couple out-of-county shelters that have made spay and neuter a priority, the way we have in the Bay Area. We feel strongly that to bring in available dogs from overpopulated areas, without helping them address their spay/neuter issues, is no better than dealing with backyard breeders or pet shops. We are actually in discussions right now to determine how we should best use our resources in light of this issue. In the future, this may even mean cutting back on providing adoptable, desirable dogs, and using our resources toward reducing the population of pit bulls and unwanted, older dogs.

In the end, the person that adopted the dog was referred to us by the dog’s breeder. He was specifically looking for this kind of dog and luckily was open to the idea of getting an older one. He would never have driven from Carmel for our loveable mutts--not even a cute one!

My point, I guess, to wrap this up, in posting this was to be honest about shelter life and about my feelings about this event. I (and other bloggers here) don’t sugar coat anything or just relate the happy stories. This blog is called Shelter Life, after all!

The whole “breeder-vs-shelter,” “purebred-vs-mutt,” “intact pets vs. spayed and neutered ones,” is a HUGE part of that life and what our staff and volunteers courageously deal with daily.

Thank you for commenting. I think your questions give us, and blog readers, a chance to really think these things through for ourselves. Please keep reading and keep commenting!


Dog writer Jon Katz owns purebreds, and has discussed his rationale. I don't agree with him, but understand his reasons. Personally, I like the quote attributed to Issac Mizhrai, that mutts are like haute couture: one-of-a-kind designed just for you! (even if you didn't know it)


Even if people are dead serious about getting a purebred, I'm sure that if they actually tried they could find plenty! Puppies too!

Though some think that all shelter dogs/puppies are some else's problems dumped away, puppies from OUR shelter seem very well socialized.


Rachel, don't worry about "dog owner"'s rant. Yes, they brought up decent questions to consider. However, my comment to them: If the EBSPCA almost lost them as a supporter to the organization, then I think they'd better question where their heart is in their support. Like you said, the blog is called "Shelter Life" and not "Shelter Life...what we think you want to hear."

They questioned what exactly were you trying to accomplish by posting your rant. Well, what were they trying to accomplish by posting theirs?? A hypocritical statement.

Rachel, I appreciate your very raw and honest feelings about shelter life. Keep up the postings! It gives everyone a very real insight to the animal welfare world.


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