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Volunteers from San Francisco nonprofit Rocket Dog Rescue are preparing for a second trip to Bakersfield after traveling there last weekend to rescue nine Chihuahuas from a dog-hoarding situation.

Rocket Dog founder Pali Boucher says that two of the dogs have already found new homes, two are in foster homes that might become permanent, and the others are being fostered.

About 50 dogs were in the home, which she described as “awful living conditions.”

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The first nine Chihuahuas rescued from Bakersfield.

“They are all around a year old, and extremely sweet and loving despite what they have been through,” Boucher wrote on Rocket Dog Rescue’s Facebook page.

She says she is not sure how many dogs she and other volunteers will bring back from Bakersfield when they return.

Despite the horrific environment the dogs were found in, Boucher says, the woman who was keeping the dogs is working with Rocket and other rescue groups. “That’s the way I like to help,” Boucher says, “before animal control steps in, as long as we have a system in place and the person is willing to work with us.”

Asked to describe the Bakersfield site, she says, “Whenever you have 50 animals in one given place, you’re going to have a very cluttered and very dirty environment — it’s going to look pretty harsh.”

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The woman holding the dogs called Rocket Dog Rescue directly; Boucher says she believes the woman was trying to help the dogs, but somehow the situation got out of hand. Unfortunately, this is all too common in dog-hoarding situations.

The health problems in this group of Chihuahuas include cases of demodectic mange and some pneumonia. “We’re pretty good at trouble-shooting some pretty serious illnesses,” Boucher says, adding that just getting a large group of rescue animals spayed and neutered can cost thousands of dollars.

The first group of dogs taken by Rocket Dog were mostly in good health — and that was intentional. Boucher says when there are a lot of animals to be rescued, she’ll take the ones in better condition first because they can find foster and permanent homes more readily. Volunteers will return to get dogs with more serious medical needs and behavioral problems who could take longer to rehabilitate. Older dogs, which are also harder to place, are also included in the later rounds of rescue.

Late last week Rocket received the call and coordinated with other rescue groups in California, including Nuts’n Bolts Animal Advocates in the city of Madera.

“We really believe in working together as a team,” Boucher says. “We’re not territorial.” The first phone call indicated that about 25 animals were at the site, whereas 50 were discovered.

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On the way to new homes.

Small dogs such as Chihuahuas used to be relatively rare in shelters, Boucher says, but now they are among the most common. A recent case involved 16 Chihuahuas in a small apartment in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. The animals’ owner moved to the Philippines, simply leaving the animals behind.

The situation in Bakersfield and surrounding Kern County is indeed dire, Boucher says. Statistics from the Kern County Animal Control website reflect this. In 2011, slightly more than 1,800 dogs were adopted from the shelter, whereas around 10,000 were euthanized. The numbers for cats are lower but the adoption-to-death ration is worse. About 500 cats were adopted from the shelter, while more than 7,800 were put to death.

Asked the reason for this, Boucher cites overpopulation. “There’s just no place to put these guys,” she says.

To adopt one of the rescued Chihuahuas, donate toward the cost of the dogs’ care, or offer volunteer services, visit the Rocket Dog Rescue website.


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