New adoption process means hearing the “meows” over inter-county pitter patter
Usually when reporters write stories about kittens, it’s to describe how the brave crew of a fire department fished one out of a tree or storm drain.
In this case, however, it’s to take a look at the adoption process, especially a new take on it that’s allowing a local Mammoth pet store to help ease the glut of cats and kittens that recently overwhelmed the Inyo County Animal Shelter (ICAS).
On one hand, the system seems to be working. In a trial run of an inter-agency, inter-county animal pipeline, a group of 8 kittens were recently taken off the hands of the ICAS and quickly adopted in Mono County. Ordinarily, that would be the end of the story, and at first it seemed as though there may not be much worth putting in print, but the flip side of the coin revealed gossip that’s been circulating among some of the adopters regarding the circumstances under which the adoptions took place.
What follows will, hopefully, clear things up not only for those lucky enough to procure one of the kittens, but for readers in general that might be interested in adopting a kitty in the future, which hopefully will still be the case.
In late July, a casual chat between Stephanie Wolff, co-owner of Mammoth Pet Shop, and members of Inyo-based Eastern Sierra Dog Rescue kicked off a plan to move the felines to Mammoth and get them homes. Earlier this year, ESDR and Mammoth Pet collaborated on a one-off project to get a dog adopted, and following that successful effort hatched a plan to help alleviate the seasonal summer cat overcrowding that was taxing ICAS.
According to Wolff and Mammoth Pet’s Michael Munson, before going ahead, it was agreed that the kittens would be adopted as per Inyo County guidelines. Background checks and screenings of prospective adopters would be conducted, and spay/neutering requirements would be met. Wolff and Munson both stated firmly that the adoptions were not a for-profit venture. A $25 fee per kitten was charged to help process the adoptions for Inyo County, and didn’t go into Mammoth Pet’s bank account. If anything, Wolff and Munson said they spent money on the kittens out of their pockets, supplying food, litter and some assorted toys out of the kindness of their hearts.
Communication problems arose between the various agencies involved. Relaying information back and forth about what was actually happening and the government paperwork that needed to be put in place ruffled a few feathers. “Were egos bruised or feelings hurt? What’s all this about an Inyo County “ordinance? Why would someone try to block the adoptions?” Questions emanating from a slew of misinformation set off an almost comedic game of telephone.
The only critters not laughing: the kittens, which only wanted to go home to their new owners.
Tim Proffitt, Inyo County Animal Control Officer, said he thought the whole thing was essentially a “timing error.” The history of that error, he explained, dates back to a series of procedural memos drafted by Inyo County that set forth the conditions under which the County can enter into agreements for animals (dogs and cats) to be adopted through private entities, such as pet stores. In the spring of 2000, a similar concept was tried through Bishop-based Pet Friendzy. At the time, the County determined that it couldn’t transfer pets directly to the stores, unless they wanted to act as “adopters,” an unwieldy and expensive proposition, given the paperwork involved.
A better idea was divined that utilized the services of nonprofit rescue groups, such as ICARE (Inyo County Animal Resources and Education), which didn’t fall into the category of being an “adoptive owner” by law.
Fast-forward to this summer. In late July, the kittens are transported to Mammoth Pet, and apparently here’s where things broke down. ICARE’s Lisa Schade, who also maintains the ICAS website, learned second-hand that some of the kittens on the site have been relocated out of county for adoption. Schade said ICAS apparently didn’t keep her in the loop as to what was happening, She did say that it was probably an oversight due to the immense amount of work ICAS was putting in at the busy Big Pine Shelter. That, she said, coupled with a hot summer, will throw lots of emotional wrenches into even the best intentions.
Once she realized what was happening, she reminded Proffitt that ESDR should have an agreement in place, similar to the one ICARE had used in the past with Pet Friendzy. This caused Proffitt to place a “hold” on the kittens while the paperwork was being worked out. How that was communicated to Mammoth Pet by ESDR apparently led to Wolff and Munson mistakenly getting the impression that Schade was somehow responsible for the “hold.” Problem 2. And it wasn’t entirely clear to the Mammoth Pet contingent exactly what the “hold” was for, either, since they weren’t copied properly on conversations about the agreement. Wolff and Munson became even further confused, believing the “hold” had to do with an Inyo County ordinance that was potentially being violated. Problem 3.
But, timing is, of course everything, and as Proffitt recalled, once ESDR signed the agreement on or about the first of August, the kitty train was back on track.
“Reminding everyone about this agreement … I was trying to protect Inyo County as an entity,” Schade explained. “They’re a partner and I feel a sense of obligation to them. I would never do anything to prevent expediting an adoption.”
Once the situation was made clear to Mammoth Pet, Munson said problem solved. He and Wolff told The Sheet they are “totally willing” to work with both ESDR and ICARE on future adoptions. “It’s all about the kittens and puppies,” they said. Proffitt echoed that point. “Our main goal is and has always been to get pets into good homes,” he said. “We just want to make sure its done the best, most legal way possible, both for Mammoth Pet and Inyo County. Intermediary nonprofits such as ESDR and ICARE offer lots of benefits due to their legal status and pre-established relationships, and the agreements simply make sure that any liability issues are covered for all parties involved.”
Schade said she’ll do whatever she can to help facilitate adoptions with Mammoth Pet and ESDR. “I love what they’ve done. They’re both great and are providing a much-needed service,” Schade said. Wolff and Munson said they have a waiting list for more kittens. In light of Los Angeles County’s annual euthanasia of roughly 13,000 cats and dogs, one goal that all parties seem committed to work towards is making sure Inyo and Mono counties cooperate to avoid that scenario ever happening in our area.