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A perfect storm of chaos and death: LA area shelters need public assistance

Some of the 38 dogs confiscated from a hoarder house in the Baldy Mesa/outskirts of Phelan, CA. All of these dogs (and 17 cats) were brought to Devore Animal Shelter in San Bernardino County, CA. Visit for more details.
Some of the 38 dogs confiscated from a hoarder house in the Baldy Mesa/outskirts of Phelan, CA. All of these dogs (and 17 cats) were brought to Devore Animal Shelter in San Bernardino County, CA. Visit for more details.
Devore Animal Shelter & San Bernardino County Animal Control

While everyone was enjoying Independence Day weekend, most had little awareness of those who have no independence, and may never enjoy freedom again.

These are just a few of the 38 dogs confiscated along with 17 cats from a dilapidated house with no running water or power, in the outskirts of Phelan, in the high desert of San Bernardino County, on Wednesday, July 2, 2014.
San Bernardino County Animal Control & Devore Animal Shelter

During Independence Day week, a perfect storm of scant adoptions, holiday closings, vacations, legitimate rescues having their pull rights revoked, out-of-control intake rates due to fireworks, and 3 enormous animal confiscations that were only acted upon during this traditionally most crowded and deadly week of the year, has led to countless unnecessary animal deaths.

On Wednesday, July 2, 2014, San Bernardino County Animal Care and Control finally responded to a series of calls and complaints of animal neglect that had been raised for months, about a hoarder house in the outskirts of Phelan, CA, in the high desert of San Bernardino County.

The house was worse than anyone could have ever imagined. It had no running water, no power, no electricity. 38 dogs and 17 cats lived packed together in total filth. The dog breeds with longer hair – mostly coveted Shih Tzus and Lhasa Apsos, had never been groomed. Some of the dogs have eye conditions – most animals were underfed and suffered medical neglect. All were confiscated immediately and taken to Devore Animal Shelter, which is the county shelter for San Bernardino. On average, a large intake day is 30 dogs, but that day, they took in 57. The fireworks festivities had already started and there were 19 strays – most likely spooked by sudden loud unofficial firework displays, which is rampant in the county - in addition to the 38 confiscated.

With only 90 kennels total, but a sudden 131 total dogs on July 2nd, Devore is jammed, and has to resort to killing dogs and cats who have overstayed their welcome. Any cat or dog can be killed within minutes they become available for adoption to the public. Every stray animal, upon intake, is given 5 days hold time, which is in accordance with Hayden Law. This is to ensure that pet parents have a chance to find their lost pets.

There are simply not enough adopters or fosters offering their homes to the available dogs and cats, and all private rescues who are approved rescue partners are 100% full. Because of this sudden influx of animals from these hoarding situations, these available animals have very little chance at surviving.

It didn’t help that all city and county shelters, including Devore, were closed yesterday for the holiday. Or that July 5th traditionally has the highest intake rates, all across the country. Irresponsible pet owners forget to leave their pets locked inside, and animals will run off suddenly and become irretrievable. Animal rescuers have been working hard all week – a week when most people (some rescues included) have been off on vacation. Numbers have already climbed to 137 dogs and 61 cats today…and they are still climbing.

Brian Cronin, Chief of Animal Care and Control in San Bernardino County said in a press release dated July 3, 2014, “Adopting animals that are already available will free up space for the influx that will come with the Fourth of July. It will also allow staff more time to care for the dogs and cats that were received on Wednesday as a result of this recent animal neglect case. Many of those animals have been neglected and require extended care.” Watch more about it in this video.

Devore shelter cannot be relieved by other shelters, even in the greater LA area. This week has been a nightmare for the animal community. 130 animals (mostly dogs) were confiscated from unofficial rescue Los Angelitos de Dios and founder Christianna Billman-Coppola, 38. These dogs have been distributed among the 6 LA County shelters, with the majority landing at East Valley and North Central shelters. Details here.

Only last Friday, on June 27th, Christina Patz, 42, was arrested and charged for 90 counts of felony animal cruelty, Kern County Animal Services announced. Patz was running an unofficial rescue out of her home in Rosamond, CA, near Lancaster. Animal control officers removed 155 live cats and 64 dead cats in her suburban home off of Whisper Sands Avenue. Another 23 cats were euthanized to prevent more suffering, KCAS said.

Due to this and other factors, Lancaster Animal Shelter, where Patz “rescued” most of these cats, has suspended the pull rights of most reputable rescues. This has resulted in an enormous death toll. All of these confiscated animals have to go somewhere – but they take up kennels and cages for an indefinite amount of time, which can last months while everything is locked in legal battles, and that leaves almost no cages and kennels for dogs and cats available for adoption. Read more details here.

Devore Animal Shelter is trying to prevent as many animal deaths as possible, but as of July 7, 2014, has only had 1 kennel available for the intake of new dogs. Dozens of healthy, young, adoptable dogs and cats are being euthanized every day for lack of space.

Until the public turns its eye on the situation, and new adopters and fosters offer up their homes to these animals, the death toll will continue.

What you can do to help:

  • Consider adopting another pet. Most of these animals are well-behaved, healthy and get along great with other pets and people.
  • If you can’t adopt, please consider fostering. Fosters are able to write off all of their foster animal’s food and medical expenses, so that everything is deductible. Most rescues urgently want fosters and rescues will also offer to take care of all of the foster animal’s expenses.
  • Lastly, spread the word. Your friend or neighbor may have been thinking of bringing in a welcome addition to their family.
  • To foster or adopt and stay on top of the latest information about available pets, follow the Friends of Freddie volunteer facebook pages.

To search through currently available pets at Devore, click here.

Follow more of the Phelan 55/High Desert Hoarding case here.

Devore Animal Shelter is open every day. Anyone can adopt from them – they do not need to be a resident of San Bernardino County. Their hours of operation and contact info are:

19777 Shelter Way
San Bernardino, CA 92407
909-386-9820 ext 0 right away to speak to someone at the front desk
Hours of Operation:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 10:00 am - 6:30 pm
Wednesday: 10:00 am - 7:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Kat Woodworth is the Founder of Paws Worldwide, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending needless animal deaths & suffering by connecting people & streamlining data with advanced information technology solutions.

She has been owned by several cats, dogs, birds & other companion animals her entire life, and has been writing for about just as long. She has had many animal-related articles published in various magazines.

Please join us in ending animal suffering at! Contact her at

Kat Woodworth
Founder | Director of Advocacy & Education
Paws Worldwide

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