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Dogged determination -- Friday September 30th, 2011

Animal welfare group to open Redding thrift

Barbara Dykstra (from left) of Redding, Joan Pitts of Shingletown and Janie Hopper and Leslie Zauher, both of Redding, work recently to ready ResQ Animal Coalition's Pawz for a Cause shop in Redding for Saturday's grand opening.

Photo by Andreas Fuhrmann // Buy this photo

Barbara Dykstra (from left) of Redding, Joan Pitts of Shingletown and Janie Hopper and Leslie Zauher, both of Redding, work recently to ready ResQ Animal Coalition's Pawz for a Cause shop in Redding for Saturday's grand opening.

A Redding animal welfare group is opening a storefront to help support its rescue efforts and introduce dogs for adoption.

"We're a boutique-thrift store," said Janie Hopper, president of the nonprofit ResQ Animal Coalition. Pawz for a Cause will celebrate its grand opening Saturday.

In what Hopper describes as "just a hodgepodge," the store will offer gently used children's clothing, silk flower arrangements and the requisite canine paraphernalia — including handcrafted dog collars, bone-shaped place mats and doggy sweaters.

"We want to make it fun and light, and support responsible dog ownership, and give some of these little homeless critters a permanent home," she said. ResQ specializes in small dogs that are sheltered in a network of foster homes pending adoption.

Saturday's event will feature snacks and fiddle music. Visitors also can sample a slice of a dog-shaped cake.

All proceeds from Pawz will go to support ResQ, which Hopper says already has spent more than $15,000 this year on medical care for its critters. It's also looking toward the future.

"If we can get enough people on board we plan on having a shelter in five years," she said. "That's our goal."

Having a central location has another benefit, said Barbara Dykstra, who serves on ResQ's board.

"It will help us get more dogs for people to see in a safe, quiet place," she said.

Pawz, which will be open 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, will be staffed entirely by volunteers.

"We really appreciate all the support we're getting from the community and people who love dogs," Dykstra said. "And the dogs do, too."

If you go

Who: ResQ Animal Coalition

What: Pawz for a Cause opening celebration

When: 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: 2940 Churn Creek Road, Enterprise Center in Redding

Contact: For more information, call 276-9364 or visit

The tortoise and the care -- Tuesday February 22nd, 2011

Meet Steve. Best guess is he's about 7 years old and weighs around 35 pounds. He chows down a couple of pounds of grass a day and lives under a heat lamp at Janie Hopper's Redding home. During his lifetime, which could be 80 to 100 years, Steve could blossom to well over 100 pounds and stretch more than 2 feet long. Steve is a tortoise — Geochelone sulcata to be precise — and a high-maintenance one at that. "He eats like a horse," said Hopper, who adopted him after he reportedly was discovered wandering the streets of Red Bluff. In all likelihood he was abandoned by someone with buyer's remorse. "They're cute when they're tennis-ball-size, but they're not meant to be companion pets," she said. She's on a mission to send that message, hoping to discourage the unwary from buying such a critter to take home. Hopper, president of ResQ Animal Coalition, has a kindred spirit in Tami Phelps, who connected her with Steve. Phelps has about 30 reptiles at her Redding home, including two sulcatas weighing 50 and 60 pounds. They're called Tank and Nibbler, the latter after an incident involving a visitor. "He sampled her toe and drew blood because his mouth is huge," Phelps said. One was found wandering in Palo Cedro, the other in Paskenta. Because they're native to sub-Saharan Africa, the north state climate is just one threat to the sulcatas. "Chelonia in general are some of the most neglected pets and the most disposable, unfortunately because that's how most people treat them," Phelps said. "As soon as winter comes they'll die around here." A full-time dispatcher at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Phelps also volunteers at Shasta Wildlife Rescue. Typically that group only takes orphaned or injured wildlife, not unwanted pets, but the animals' origin isn't always known when they're dropped off. "Some get dumped," Phelps said. She happens to be particularly fond of reptiles, educating herself on their care, first aid and feeding over many years. "Research, research, research," she advises anyone thinking of taking one on. Sulcatas, for example, have to be kept warm and dry. They have specific nutrition needs and are best kept in a climate-controlled enclosure. "They're like a tank," she said. "They can tear down fences. They're tenacious and will just keep working on it." Hopper notes there are sanitary concerns as well. "They poop about the size of a cow almost when they get full grown," she said. Phelps credits her boyfriend, Chad Hawthorne, with helping feed and water her menagerie. "It's not a one-person job," she said. "We have to have a team, a support system." Dr. Marilee King, who's seen her share of turtles, snakes, geckos and iguanas at Anderson Veterinary Clinic, agrees many people lack proper education when it comes to exotics. "Absolutely they are unaware," she said. "They think, 'Oh, I can just feed it lettuce.' Ninety-eight percent of problems with all exotic species is nutrition and habitat." She also cited the work involved. "If you want to go on vacation or something, you just can't put them on hold," she said. Groups that specialize in reptile adoption or rescue can be good resources for people who want to adopt or surrender the creatures, Phelps said. For her part, reptiles are well-suited to her schedule and she admits to having "a soft spot" for them. As for Hopper, she has to make adjustments for Steve. "I can't walk around the house barefoot with red nail polish," she said. "They love the color red." But he's likely to stay in the family for a long time. "My grandson will inherit him, I'm sure," she said. Tortoise tutorial To learn more about the needs of sulcatas and other reptiles, have a look at the following websites recommended by reptile rescuer Tami Phelps:

Planes, pups and vets -- Wednesday February 2nd, 2011

Just days after a dog hoarder arrest in Tulare County that netted 22 sick balls of matted fur and fleas, six of the small dogs are finally receiving medical attention at a veterinary clinic in Millville. Due to space limitations, the Tulare County Animal Shelter in Visalia had scheduled to euthanize all 22 animals on Monday, but local rescue groups heard about the hoarder arrest Friday, Jan. 21, and offered their assistance, said rescue coordinator Randi Plotner of Berkeley. Following a mercy airlift Wednesday, Jan. 26, provided gratis by a Livermore pilot associated with Puppies N Paws, Plotner and six of the dogs arrived at Redding Municipal Airport. The remaining animals are receiving similar care in other locations from San Diego to the State of Washington, thanks to a network of dedicated animal rescue professionals. The obviously malnourished animals were crawling with fleas and stinking of animal filth. Many of them were trembling and scared as the rescue workers, each wearing rubber gloves, inspected the animals carefully as they transferred them to individual portable kennels in front of the Jet Center terminal. “I’ve been doing (animal rescue) for 30 years and it still makes me cry every time I do this,” said Janie Hopper of Redding, who operates ResQ Animal Coalition. Hopper is providing technical expertise in getting the animals healthy again. She will be assisted in large part by a team of four highly-skilled veterinarians at Millville Veterinary Clinic, she said. “I wouldn’t trust anyone else to do this kind of work,” Hopper said of veterinarian Jen Presleigh and her team. “They bend over backwards for us. I can call on them any time of day or night,” Hopper added. Hopper’s counterpart, Randi Plotner of Bay Area Poodle Rescue, was a passenger in the gold and white 2003 Diamond Star four-seater airplane owned and flown by Cindy Smith of Livermore, who has been volunteering her plane, fuel and pilot skills for dog rescue transport through Puppies N Paws for nearly three years. “I love animals and I love to fly. Rescues like this give me a really good reason to go flying,” Smith said after unloading the three portable kennels, each containing two dogs. Watching the action from a respectable distance was Joan Husted of Redding. Husted provides occasional financial support for Hopper’s dog rescue efforts. “I call her our Angel,” Hopper said of Husted, who has generously offered to pay for treatment and animal hospitalizations costs estimated so far at nearly $5,000. “I was so touched by what I have seen,” Husted said later as she left the airport. “I support them financially because I cannot do a lot of the physical work and it is difficult for me to handle the emotional side of animal rescue,” Husted said. At least three of the dogs, which had been on antibiotics since Monday for ringworms, fleas and other parasites, were diagnosed late Wednesday as suffering from bacterial pneumonia and gastrointeritus, fatal diseases in small animals if left untreated for too long, Hopper said. “Their lungs are all massed up. We can’t even cut off their matted coats until we clear up their lungs,” she noted. Meanwhile, the other three animals that are healthier will be cared for by Debbie Bishop of Cottonwood. Bishop will care for the dogs for a minimum of two weeks, bathing each of them several times per day to rid them of fleas. She will also administer $300 worth of antibiotics to each animal to rid them of worms and kennel cough. Once the animals are properly spayed or neutered, they will be offered for adoption to responsible pet owners, a process that costs $150 to $275 per animal and can take up to three weeks. “The adoption fee doesn’t even begin to cover our costs,” Hopper noted. “We spend every ounce of energy, strength and personal finances to rehabilitate these animals so we want them to go to a good home,” she said. The adoption process Hopper employs is very thorough and careful. “Since we specialize primarily in purebred animals, we want a lifetime commitment.

AND THE FIGHT GOES ON... -- Friday October 2nd, 2009

NEWS ARTICLE FROM THE RECORD-SEARCHLIGHT: Sixteen dogs were seized Wednesday from a Gerber dog breeder's kennel after an animal rescue group alerted Tehama County authorities that the owner was operating an alleged puppy mill. The owner of the kennel denies any wrongdoing, saying he's been the target of a hateful campaign to discredit him by the rescue group. "I've been doing this legitimately for so many years," said Jerry Burch, the 66-year-old owner of Flashback Kennels on 8326 McClure Ave. "If I was doing anything illegal all these years, why did they keep giving me a license?" Sheriff Clay Parker said animal rescue groups have been filing complaints against Burch for the past 18 months. And, in May, Burch surrendered his dog-breeding license because the location wasn't zoned for a commercial kennel, Parker said. He was forced to give away at least 40 of the dogs he was breeding at the site. Even so, last month members of ResQ Animal Coalition filed a complaint with Tehama County officials alleging Burch was still breeding dogs on the site, Parker said. Janie Hopper, the coalition's founder, said a member of her group went to Burch's place and spent $100 on a long-haired dachshund. While she was there, she filmed the alleged breeding operation covertly on her cell phone. Burch said Hopper's group has been harassing him for months in a smear campaign that includes message board postings to discredit him. He said the group is upset because he gave them just 40 of the dogs when he surrendered his license in May. They wanted the other 20, which he had given away elsewhere, he said. "This group is very powerful," he said. "They have a lot of money." After receiving notice from the group that the kennel was still in operation, last week sheriff's officials went to the property, but Burch wouldn't let them in, Parker said. Authorities obtained an inspection warrant, which was used to enter the property on Wednesday. Burch wasn't home at the time. Parker said four dogs were clearly the owner's pets, and they were left. Half of the 16 dogs, a mix of small breeds like Shih Tzus and Pomeranians, that were seized were adults. "The puppies were just little fur balls," Parker said. Burch had stashed seven of the adult dogs in a 10-by-10-foot pen on a neighbor's property, Parker said. "He was basically trying to hide them from us," Parker said. Burch said the adult dogs found on his neighbor's property weren't his anymore. He'd given them to his neighbor and his sister. Neither of them had registered the dogs yet, Burch said. He also said it was legal for him to keep the younger dogs on his property. Parker said the dogs will be held by Tehama County authorities until Wednesday, when a hearing will be held to determine what's to be done with them. Parker said they could stay at the county's shelter or be given to rescue groups like Hopper's. Parker said Burch also faces fines for operating his kennel without a license and fines for each of the dogs older than 4 months that weren't vaccinated or registered with the county. Hopper said her group believes Burch had been running a much larger breeding facility and he may have stashed dogs at satellite kennels around the area. Parker said it was obvious that the site was once much more prolific. "There was just empty kennel after kennel after kennel," Parker said. "I could see how it could be a full-scale commercial kennel operation." Reporter Ryan Sabalow can be reached at 225-8344 or at

STARVING HORSE RESCUED -- Thursday August 27th, 2009

POSTED IN THE RECORD-SEARCHLIGHT: A bony guy named Bob has a shot at living his senior years in relative health and comfort, thanks to the kindness of strangers. The 30-something horse - known as Bob George Junior or Bones, a reference to his sorry physique - has been taken in by a Cottonwood family after he was found starving along a dirt road in Millville. "How he got there we don't know," said Lisa Sollenne, office manager at Millville Veterinary Clinic and a part-time animal rescuer. She found the 800-pound animal - 300 pounds underweight - Aug. 15 after a neighbor mentioned she'd spotted him while she was riding her horse. "In my opinion, in only a day or two Bob would have been a goner," said Sollenne, who hauled him to her house. When friend Janie Hopper, president of Redding-based ResQ Animal Coalition, called the next day searching for a home for a litter of kittens, they agreed to swap. "I took six bottle babies and she took Bob," Sollenne said. Hopper in turn contacted her daughter, Laticia Lawrence, who took the horse to her Cottonwood home last Thursday. Lawrence's 9-year-old son, Nolan, came up with the name, but he's got others. "We call him 'the bony guy' or Bones," Nolan's mother said. The first time she saw the horse, she was appalled. "It's just disgusting," Lawrence said. "It's horrible that people would do that to an animal. He was all wobbly and weak, and it's just sad." Hopper contacted Haven Humane Society and Shasta County Animal Regulation and ran newspaper ads looking for an owner. That caught the eye of Happy Valley resident John Lorentz, who asked whether he could help. "He is the most compassionate, caring man I've ever seen in the north state," Hopper said. He bought hay, has visited Bob twice a day and arranged for his veterinarian to do a house call Wednesday. "He's got a lot of sand in his gut, probably from foraging," Lawrence said after the horse was examined. "The doctor said he'd never seen so much dirt in a horse's belly." Lorentz, who's retired, said he joined the effort just because he likes horses. "I just can't stand to watch people starve their animals," Lorentz said. "It was just the right thing to do. People can take care of themselves, but animals rely on us to do that." Sollenne urges people who see animals suffering to take action - even if it's just making a telephone call. "I realize that with the economy the way it is, when it comes down to feeding the animals or feeding your kids, you feed your kids," Sollenne said. "But animals - you don't just abandon them." Hopper has set up a bank account at North Valley Bank on East Cypress Avenue in Redding to establish a reward fund to find who's responsible for Bob's condition, and also to help pay for his care. Lawrence says Bob continues to improve. "He'll talk to you now; he'll paw you. He likes to be loved up," she said. She hopes to find him another home, but that may not happen because of his age. "The prognosis is he's old, but he still has some years to live out," she said. "Hopefully after having more nutrition, he can live out those last years of his life healthy and happy." Reporter Janet O'Neill can be reached at 225-8216 or at

animal crusader -- Sunday April 26th, 2009

Redding puppy mill crusader will testify in Sacramento By Janet O'Neill (Contact) Sunday, April 26, 2009 An outspoken anti-puppy mill crusader from Redding will be among those testifying in Sacramento this week in support of an Assembly bill that would crack down on such operations. "I just can't wait to go because I think it's such an honor to be included in this whole process to get these laws passed to protect the animals," said Janie Hopper, president of ResQ Animal Coalition. Accompanying her to the 9 a.m. Tuesday hearing will be Barbara Dykstra, her partner in the Redding-based animal welfare organization. "We're so excited that we're going to speak," Hopper said Friday. Assembly Bill 241, known as the Responsible Breeder Act of 2009 and authored by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, passed the Public Safety Committee on April 14, a Nava spokesman said Friday. The measure limits the number of unsterilized dogs or cats that can be bought or sold wholesale to 50. Co-sponsors include the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which asked Hopper to speak. Among other supporters are the Shasta Animal Welfare Foundation, and the California Peace Officers and California Police Chiefs associations. The American Kennel Club, California Federation of Dog Clubs and the Cat Fanciers Association are some of the groups opposing the bill. Some claim the legislation is arbitrary, redundant and an unnecessary burden on legitimate breeders. Closer to home, Hopper's most recent target has been what she sees as a dire puppy mill problem in Tehama County. She's appeared before the Board of Supervisors twice in recent months, spurring the county to check on kennels not conforming with its use permit requirements. She also plans to meet soon with Supervisor George Russell to discuss forming a puppy mill task force. Kathleen Summers, manager of HSUS' campaign against puppy mills, said testimony from people, such as Hopper, are important. "Many of these individuals have witnessed firsthand the cruel conditions common to many puppy mills, such as continual caging, overcrowded and filthy cages, and lack of vital health care for the animals," Summers wrote in an e-mail. "They have also seen the conditions of the dogs who have come from these facilities and their many health problems. The testimony of state residents who have witnessed these problems firsthand is valuable in helping legislators understand how the problem directly affects their constituents." Nava's other pending animal-cruelty laws are AB 242, the Dogfighting Prevention Act of 2009, and AB 243, the Animal Abuse Prevention Act of 2009. Reporter Janet O'Neill can be reached at 225-8216 or at

The Fight Goes On! -- Thursday March 19th, 2009

A NEWS BRIEF FROM RESQ: Some of you may know that we are currently working hard to stem the flow of damaged dogs coming from the out-of-control puppy mill sitation in our neighboring county of Tehama. Some of you may have actually adopted dogs from us who have come from these puppy mills and know the severe psychological and physical problems these dogs have suffered. I am enclosing links from the local media for those of you who might want to catch up on the situation. The local Ag commissioner has stated that he doesn't believe that puppy mills exist. We know for a fact through our efforts to save these animals, that the problem is very prevalent there. We are trying to garner support from the public to protest this abominable situation there. If you'd like to help us do this, I am also enclosing phone numbers and an email address for those in charge who seem to either be unaware, or unable to believe the problem exists. Here are the links to the articles (first two) and tv station clips (2nd two): If after reading these articles and viewing the clips you'd like to help us out please contact the following: Bill Goodwin Chief Adminstrator Tehama County Phone (530) 527-4655 Fax (530) 527-3764 Rick Gurrola Agriculture Dept. Tehama County 530-527-4504 Thank you in advance for your support!

Puppy mill foes -- Tuesday March 10th, 2009

By Janet O'Neill Tuesday, March 10, 2009 RED BLUFF - A Redding animal-welfare group's campaign against puppy mills led to a complaint that has prompted Tehama County officials to change the way they handle commercial kennel licenses. "We're just trying to patch the cracks basically," said county Agricultural Commissioner Rick Gurrola, whose department oversees Animal Services - the division that issues licenses to facilities with more than five dogs. Officials learned recently that licenses were being granted without first being cleared for planning requirements - a flaw in the application process that they aim to fix by ordinance. The issue was brought to their attention by Janie Hopper, who with Barbara Dykstra runs ResQ Animal Coalition, a Redding-based nonprofit. "It only makes good sense to take this action," Gurrola said last week. "We weren't aware of this until Janie brought it to light." Under the new ordinance, the Planning Department also will have to sign off on licenses before they're issued. Gurrola hopes it will go before the Board of Supervisors on April 21. But Hopper, who says she's been after the county to step up enforcement for two years, sees a larger issue. "It goes to the Board of Supervisors and then it disappears, and they need to deal with the root problem - which is the problem of puppy farms in Tehama County," she said. Driven by a concern about enterprises that breed large numbers of puppies in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, she and a number of other rescue volunteers plan to attend the March 17 board meeting to speak out. "Why are we so passionate about puppy mills?" she said. "We simply want to stop the suffering of these animals ... and in the case of Tehama County we want enforcement of the law." According to Hopper, rescue groups and shelters took in at least 175 animals from one Gerber kennel in the second half of 2008. When she learned that kennel had no use permit, she alerted the county. "We're in the process of checking all the kennel licenses," said Animal Regulation Officer Curtis Knight. He estimated that of about 30 commercial permits in the county, eight had no use permit or had other compliance issues. Knight said the owner of the Gerber kennel has since decided to shut down rather than apply for a use permit. The scope of the problem is difficult to measure, partly because of the number of agencies involved. In Tehama County, the Agriculture Department oversees Animal Services, which runs the county shelter and issues licenses; the Planning Department monitors use permits and zoning compliance; and the Sheriff's Department runs Animal Regulation, whose duties include kennel inspection, complaints and enforcement. Gurrola, who doesn't like the term "puppy mill," said he couldn't characterize the problem in Tehama County because his department is not charged with enforcement. "Generally, we don't get too many complaints about kennels," said Animal Regulation's Knight. And although he said his office is understaffed with just three officers for the entire county, they respond according to the type of complaint and often within 24 hours. In Shasta County, the Sheriff's Office oversees Animal Regulation and the shelter. Mayra Morris, program manager for Animal Regulation, said any operation with more than six dogs requires a license that both her office and planning officials have to approve. As for puppy mills, her department relies on the public. If there is a problem in Shasta County, she said, she hasn't heard about it. "We work on complaints that come in," she said. "You can't take care of a problem unless you're aware of it." Bill Walker, senior planner for the Planning Division of the Shasta County Department of Resource Management, said before a kennel license is issued his agency checks out the facility for compliance in numerous areas including space, climate control, sanitation, vector control and waste disposal. Planners also look at land use, traffic and noise. "We want to make sure that the dogs are kept in a condition that will be healthy for them and not create a health problem for the neighbors," he said. Surrounding property owners are notified and the use permit goes to the Planning Commission for approval, with or without conditions, or denial. Cost for the license through Animal Regulation can run more than $200, depending on the number of dogs. The use permit is roughly another $3,000, Walker said. But when it comes to problem kennels, his department also is complaint-driven. "We don't have planning police that go door to door to see everything that's going on all the time," he said. And he acknowledged that the volunteers with rescue groups are on the front lines in identifying problem kennels. He recalled a case two years ago in which a Papillon breeder in Mountain Gate was cited after officials found nearly 70 dogs on 2.5 acres at her unlicensed kennel. Representatives from a number of animal rescue groups spoke out against the use permit, which ultimately was denied. Meanwhile, Tehama's Gurrola said he's been meeting with other county officials to work on the new ordinance and that he sees the issue as an opportunity to better serve the county's citizens. "Nobody's trying to pass the buck," he said. Reporter Janet O'Neill can be reached at 225-8216 or at E.W. Scripps Co. © 2009 Record Searchlight
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