Behind the Scenes at Castaic Animal Shelter
June, 2006 - Issue #20
There's one place in the SCV where it's always raining cats and dogs. The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, with one of its centers in Castaic, gets a constant stream of calls involving different species. Although dogs and cats are the most commonly donated genre, it is more than just a canine and feline adoption agency.

"We've had lions, cougars and bobcats," said Sergeant Chris Childs of the Castaic Animal Shelter. "Every day, every minute can bring us something different."

In addition to being called out to properties for reports of indigenous species, like opossum, bobcats or rattlesnakes, there have been surprises.

Dakota needs a new home
Dakota needs a new home
"We had a lemur picked up at COC," said Childs. "It was injured. It had one back leg and one front leg removed."

Some shelters have housed llamas, ostriches and alpacas, and they regularly hold livestock and family pets.

"We had a six-foot-long python before," said Brenda Sanchez from administrative services at the L.A. County Department of Animal Care and Control. "We put it in a dog cage."

When animal control picks up an exotic or wild animal, the agency calls the Department of Fish and Game for assistance. If the office is called to remove a rattlesnake from a property, the homeowner can specify if he or she would like the snake relocated rather than destroyed.

The Castaic shelter is the smallest of the six Los Angeles County facilities. In the last fiscal year, the shelter, which services both the Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, had a total of 5,736 incoming animals. The Castaic shelter adopted out a little less than half of the dogs and cats that came through its doors last year. The number of dogs housed there totaled 2,749, and 1,064 were adopted. Incoming cats totaled 1,692, and the shelter placed 973 of them.

The volume of animals at the Castaic shelter is lower than at the other locations because it is physically smaller and the rate of adoption is high. The property, which includes 48 dog runs, could possibly contain more than 100 animals if necessary, Childs surmised.

There is often space available, so the Santa Clarita Valley center gets hard-to-place pets from other shelters.

"We don't euthanize adoptable animals," said Childs. "Strays are held for six days. It could lead to 30, 60, or 90 days or more. That will vary as long as the animal is healthy, has a good personality and we've got room."

Los Angeles County shelters do not have a pre-determined time frame for housing animals. The shelters' managers decide whether or not to move animals between them.

"We keep them as long as we have space and as long as they are adoptable," said Sanchez.

Animals available for adoption can be previewed by logging onto the organization's website. Photos of the animals are posted in real time as they are placed in one of the six shelters.

If pets are a person's passion, there are numerous chances to get involved at the shelter. The dogs need to be exercised daily, and individuals are needed to take charge of cleaning the cat room.

Volunteers also interface with the public. The shelter will send a contingency to Petco or other locations to show the animals to potential adoptive families. They help the public choose the proper pet for their circumstances. Some volunteers transport animals between shelters, while other animal lovers foster un-weaned kittens in their homes.

The Tiano family recently adopted a 10-month-old mixed-breed dog from shelter volunteers.

"We got Rudy from the Pet Fair that was held at Hart Park," said Ellen Tiano. "Rudy came from the Castaic shelter and had only been there one day when we adopted him. On his paperwork it said the owner just didn't have time for him."

For about $50 the Tianos purchased the dog, a collar and a leash. "For the fee, your dog has already been spayed and neutered, micro-chipped and gets any necessary shots," Tiano added. "The whole process from start to finish, after we chose Rudy, took about 15 minutes."

To contact the Castaic animal care and control office, call 257-3191 or visit

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