Pets and Their People

Return To Sender

I was pulling out of a parking lot when I spotted her—a reddish ball of fluffy fur sprinting southbound on Fulton Avenue. Dodging car after car, she crossed the freeway overpass and then Auburn Boulevard.

I followed the wayward pooch to Edison Avenue, where she took a hard left. Twice when she stopped, I jumped out of my car and called to the misplaced mutt—only to have her ignore my pleas and keep moving.


You’ve heard the myths. Pit bulls have locking jaws. They are unpredictable, stronger and more aggressive than other dogs.

Here to debunk these misconceptions is Dawn Capp, director and founder of Chako Pit Bull Rescue in Sacramento.

“These are all myths,” she says. “No dog breed has locking jaws. Their jaw strength is not any more powerful than other breeds their size,” adds Capp, citing a National Geographic study that measured the strength of dog bites in pit bulls, German shepherds and rottweilers. Pit bulls came in last.

Search & Rescue

Thousands of wildfires raged across California last year, burning millions of acres, destroying buildings and taking lives—the majority being wild and farm animals with no means of escape.

In mid-August, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine deployed its Veterinary Emergency Response Team to the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Solano and Sonoma counties, and the North Complex and Bear fires in Butte County.

The team’s mission was to care for injured animals in evacuation centers and animal shelters—and to rescue those still trapped on scorched ranches, farms and in backyards.

Advice Well Taken

Sacramento has numerous boards, commissions and committees to help the mayor and City Council run the city smoothly. One of those entities is an advisory committee for the Front Street Animal Shelter.

Unfortunately, the Animal Care Services Citizens Advisory Committee, formed in 2002, has not met since 2018, mostly for lack of a quorum. The committee currently has one member and six vacancies—which is why the city is looking for a few good animal lovers to bring this board back to life.

Seasonal Safety

The 4-month-old kitten was neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and ready to take on the world—including the festive new “cat tree” with the shiny round “toys” dangling within paws’ reach. One exuberant leap into the decorated fir branches and the whole Christmas tree came crashing down.

Though the holidays look a little different this year as people scale down the family get-togethers and forgo neighborhood parties, it doesn’t mean we won’t be adorning a tree, hanging a wreath or indulging in spiked eggnog. Including our companion animals in the festivities is part of the fun—just remember to do it safely.

Curbside Care

U.S. sales of pet products and services reached a record-breaking $95.7 billion in 2019, reports the American Pet Products Association, which releases a detailed roundup of how much the nation spends on companion animals each year. Of that total, vet care comes in at a whopping $29.3 billion, up from $18.1 billion in 2018.

Clearly, we love our pets. But, during this unprecedented pandemic, are we showing that same love for the health care workers—veterinarians, vet techs and other staff at local animal hospitals and clinics—who care for our four-legged critters?

Build It and They Will Come

“Why are Sacramento’s animal shelters overcrowded?” asks Kenn Altine, chief executive director of the Sacramento SPCA. The answer: Pet owners are not spaying and neutering.

Why aren’t they spaying and neutering? “For years, we kept saying people won’t do it. We need to do more education,” Altine says. “Well, people want to do it. People call us every day to do it.”

Model For Change

He was four months into his job heading the city’s animal shelter when COVID-19 shut down Sacramento. Phillip Zimmerman joined Front Street Animal Shelter as animal care services manager last November after leading the Stockton Animal Shelter for six years.

“I was running a shelter with the same number of animals, but with a lot less staff,” Zimmerman says of his time in Stockton. “We were doing really great things with a lot less money. So, I thought, I’ll be OK in Sacramento. Then COVID hit.”

Nesting In Natomas

Unaware they are trespassing on land owned by the Sacramento Kings, hundreds of snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons have taken up residence in a deserted oasis on the north side of Sleep Train Arena.

From a chain-link fence surrounding the grassland, the birds can be seen gliding among cement slabs and rebar, the foundation for a baseball stadium project led by Greg Lukenbill in the late 1980s that never came to fruition.

Beauty in Bats

Beauty in Bats No reason to fear these beneficial creatures By Cathryn Rakich June 2020 I expected the sky to move in waves of solid black, back and forth, around and under—the air to be filled with spine-shivering screeches. But that’s not what...

Fostering In Place

The sign posted at the entrance of Sacramento County’s Bradshaw Animal Shelter reads, “The shelter is closed to public access until further notice.”

It’s late March, three weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a State of Emergency and ordered Californians to stay home to help combat the spread of COVID-19. As a result, Sacramento animal shelters have shut their doors to the public.

Bringing Power To The Pets

When the owner of a Tahoe Park rental home abruptly sold the house, Kelly Cunningham and her 37-pound Australian shepherd mix found themselves unexpectedly searching for a new place to live.

“I started looking for housing and was completely dismayed,” Cunningham says. “There was a scarcity in rentals that would take pets, specifically a 37-pound dog.”

Best Feline Friend

After the death of her husband in 1998, Carol Stirnaman needed something to occupy her time.

Always a pet lover, the Sacramento-born resident considered volunteering at a local animal shelter. “I was looking for some type of volunteer work and I wanted it to be with animals,” she says. “I had cats and dogs all my life. I’m one of those people who just falls in love with animals.”

Making A Difference

Looking as sharp as a Wall Street banker, Kenn Altine hurries into the Sacramento SPCA administration building, three staff members trailing behind him as they listen intently to their boss. A crisp white shirt with French cuffs, traditional cufflinks and an expertly knotted tie are the daily norm for Altine, who joined the SSPCA as chief executive director in 2016.

“I always wear a shirt and tie. Every day,” says Altine, who previously worked as an editor and executive in journalism for 30 years, including stints in San Antonio, Reno, San Francisco and Houston, before moving into the animal-welfare world. “When you live and work in Houston, there is a dress code. In the middle of summer, you wear a long-sleeve shirt and you never go outside without a jacket. It’s becomes natural,” Altine explains.

Freedom Flight

The twilight sky is amber with hints of rust from the late summer sun. Towering 300-year-old oak trees canopy the expansive lawn. We gather at the edge of a grass knoll overlooking acres of lush grape vines laden with fruit almost ripe for fall harvest. Everyone is still.

Debby Duvall, a volunteer with the Wildlife Care Association, stands before us with two plastic pet carriers, each holding an orphaned barn owl. A young guest is her assistant for the evening. They both don heavy leather falconry gloves. Unlatching the first carrier’s metal door, Duvall gently pulls out the imprisoned bird, and instructs her guest assistant to grip the owl’s legs while she holds the bird in position for release, the owl’s fierce talons gripping the sturdy gloves for balance.

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