Road Trip for Rascals: Animal Care Services and Volunteers Provide a ‘Golden’ Opportunity for Shelter Pets


All photography in this article by ACS volunteer photographer Sara Cozolino.

On Aug. 5, 46 kittens and a Chihuahua (there’s one in every crowd) were given a grand farewell as they were sent off to the Foothills Animal Shelter in Golden, Colorado. Animal Care Services (ACS) staff teamed up with photographer Sara Cozolino and volunteers from Stray Cat Alliance, ZazzyCats KittyRescue and Helen Sanders Cat Paws. And me.


As a pet columnist, I frequently write about the people who are working their tokuses off for the sake of animals in need. Going as a volunteer gives me an inside look and a reality check, and I learn from it, too. The most striking thing I found out this time is how difficult it is to hand over a purring furry little body with ears on top of its head after I’ve been holding it close to my body for less than a minute. Remembering my three at home helped me not take a detour to my car with any of them.

This is the third such transport of pets to shelters that request them that ACS has engaged in. The first took place July 2 and also transferred kittens and a couple of dogs to the Foothill Shelter; another on July 30 had about 150 pets traveling to shelters in the Pacific Northwest.

Silly playful van cat with leash

Factors that include unaltered cats allowed to roam freely and breed, abandonment and backyard breeding have resulted in area shelters and rescues bursting with pets and staff and rescuers working hard to find homes for them. Despite its having adoptions and rescues numbering over 860 so far this yearand a euthanasia rate that has shown a steady decline every year since 2006—a 33 percent reduction from the same time last year, in fact—ACS is no exception to shelter overpopulation. Shelter manager Ted Stevens continually looks for practicable, creative ways to reduce the number of pets. “Sharing the wealth” with locations that actually have a call for certain animals (imagine that) is one of them.

The idea isn’t a new one; the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation (JDHF) in Encino has conducted transports since 2008, and it was through their generosity and volunteers that ACS’s transports were facilitated.

“There are cities and even entire states that have shortages of certain types of animals—generally small breeds—and we and others like us are able to send them animals who would be killed here in Los Angeles,” said Jennifer Brent, JDHF’s executive director. “We have successfully sent dogs, cats, kittens, puppies and even a few rabbits! We follow up with our destination locations and have a 100 percent guaranteed return policy that if an animal is not able to find a home at its destination shelter, we will take it back. To date, we have had less than 10 in over 6,000 animals returned for health or temperament.”

Ted and Kathy

Dig those hooks! ACS manager Ted Stevens checks off the cats for the transport while ACS volunteer coordinator Kathy Roddy calms one of the candidates.

Diane Holmes, the Heigl Foundation’s transport coordinator, said that the JDHF regularly conducts transports by plane or van to areas where there’s a demand for certain types of pets, such as kittens or small dogs. Golden, she said, has colder weather and fewer animals breeding than does Southern California, and they have fewer strays and ferals to rescue because of the greater number of predators. Area residents want kittens to take home, and ACS has plenty.

“The connection and introduction were made by Stray Cat Alliance when I reached out to Christi [Metropole, Stray Cat Alliance’s founder and director] over a month ago asking and pleading for a shelter in the U.S. that had a need for cats,” said ACS outreach director Kelly Miott. “If anyone would know, she would. She came through like a champ!”

Kelly and Boopie

ACS outreach director Kelly Miott had a hard time severing her bond with Boopie.

And it was fun! Even if you’re in the throes of the doldrums, holding and fondling dozens of kittens and sending them on a journey that has every sign of turning out beautifully for them will cheer you up considerably. Unless you’re an ailurophobe—and then, of course, there’s that Chihuahua. Each cat first received a complete health check, and then the volunteers gently scruffed them by the back of the neck, looped a leash over their heads and secured it on the wrist, and carried the little guys to the waiting van that would transport them to Colorado. The scruffing, said Stray Cat Alliance’s founder and director Christi Metropole, is a simulation of the way a mother cat carries her kittens and, if done carefully, will not hurt.

Dr. Natasha Wood Prepping a Kitty

ACS vet Dr. Natasha Wood preps a young traveler for his journey north.

scruffing lesson with Christi

leash learning

Stray Cat Alliance founder Christi Metropole showed me the fine points of scruffing and leash control. This particular kitten was perfectly content to be a learning aid.

There were no glitches save for a memorable one when a kitten from a quintet of littermates had a case of nerves and emptied his bowels onto his siblings and one of the volunteers. No big deal—we cleaned them off and had them checked out again for health, and the Fecal Five were placed in their own traveling compartment, the penultimate passengers before Boopie, the Chihuahua. They were then driven to San Bernardino by the formidable and unflappably jovial Holmes after she ensured that everyone was securely and comfortably nestled in their travel berths. The little travelers would then be driven to Colorado by a team, which was at the time resting up for the long trip.

Elizabeth Glazner and Diane Holmes

From left: Diane Holmes and volunteer Elizabeth Glazner tuck a kitten into his cage in the van.

“We want to make sure that the drivers are relaxed and fresh for the trip,” Holmes said. She said that the van is equipped with both heating and air conditioning and will make regular stops for kibble time and potty needs for the pets and people. All first class, in my book.


They better be coming with that snack tray or I’ll kick litter all over the rug.

“These transports have been invaluable in helping us to save more homeless animals this year,” Stevens said. “We are so grateful to the receiving shelters and our new partners Shelter Me, Bark Avenue Foundation and Wings of Rescue, for bringing us into their family. While these transports are not the absolute solution, they provide us with a way to save more animals and make space for animals that will be coming in very soon. We still encourage spay and neuter as the solution to help end the pet overpopulation crisis.”

And meanwhile, 47 little pets are at this reading about to embark on a happy life in a bucolic mountain town. I hope that the catnip in Colorado is as fine a strain as I hear it is.

ACS wants to thank the volunteers who assisted in this transport:

Christi and cat

Christi Metropole, Stray Cat Alliance

AManda Fernandez and Cat

Amanda Fernandez, Stray Cat Alliance

Anna and cat

Anna Wong, Stray Cat Alliance

Elizabeth Glaznerr and cat

Elizabeth Glazner, Stray Cat Alliance

Me and Chris

Me with Chris Szechy, Helen Sanders CatPaws

Jimmy kissing cat

Jimmy Naccarato, ZazzyCats KittyRescue

Save a life. adopt a cat

Cat says howdy

“It is impossible to keep a straight face in the presence of one or more kittens.”
~ Cynthia E. Varnado

Virtually Pets

The shelter is far from empty. If you have room in your heart and home to adopt one of the many good souls staying there, come to Animal Care Services, 7700 E. Spring St. near El Dorado Park in Long Beach. Hours are Wednesday–Friday, 10:00AM–5:30PM and Saturday and Sunday, 10:00AM–4:00PM. There are three entrances to two distinct facilities, and only one of them is to our shelter.


ACS admissions entrance

Here are a few examples of pets you can adopt if you attend the Pet Food Express’s grand opening this weekend (see Pet Projects):

A526786  Hawkeye 2 years old

Hawkeye, male, 2 years old, ID#A526786

A528197 Crisco 9 years old

Crisco, age 9, male, ID#A528197

A527705 Izzy 4 years old

Izzy, 4 years, male, ID#A527705

A528978 Bandit 7 years old

Bandit, age 7, female, ID#A528978 

Pet Projects

Grand Opening Adoption Event, Saturday & Sunday, Aug. 9-10, Pet Food Express, 27341 Hawthorne Blvd., Rolling Hills Estates (across from the Peninsula Shopping Center), 10:00AM–4:00PM

More than 100 adorable dogs, cats and rabbits from Los Angeles County and Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) will be available for adoption at the grand opening of Pet Food Express this weekend. The adoption rates have been discounted to $55 for dogs and $45 for cats. Pet Food Express is donating $50 to these shelters for every pet that’s brought to the adoption event and giving the shelters an additional $100 for every animal adopted at the event. Even more generously, they’re donating $100 for every pet adopted at any of their shelters for the entire week. You can see some of the pets that will be at the adoption event here.

Yappy Hour Benefit for Friends of El Dorado Dog Park, Sunday, Aug. 17, The Wine Country, 2301 Redondo Ave., Signal Hill, 1:00PM–4:00PM, tickets $25 per person

Enjoy eight tastings of good wine accompanied by cheese and crackers, and toast yourself for helping the El Dorado Dog Park. There will also be a silent auction and a raffle, pet-related items for sale and (be still my beating heart—which it will be if I overindulge) a grilled cheese sandwich truck in attendance. All proceeds go toward upgrades at the park. Volunteers are also needed for this event; an Aug. 9 meeting will be held at 2PM at the El Dorado Restaurant, 3014 N. Studebaker Ave., Long Beach. E-mail at [email protected] or call (562) 505-0216.

‘Furry Friends’ Animal-Themed Art Show, Saturday, Aug. 23, Salon Pop, 2228 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, 6:00PM–10:00PM

Enjoy art for animals’ sake at this hip location on an equally hip street! There will be drinks, refreshments and music. All proceeds—all—from the artwork will go to a local animal-rescue group.

Stray Cat Alliance Team Fund-Raiser for Strut Your Mutt, through Sept. 1, Online

Stray Cat Alliance (SCA) is presenting its major fund-raiser for the year as it calls for team members and supporters of the SCA team in Best Friends’ Strut Your Mutt fund-raising dog walk (click on the link). The walk’s mission is to help homeless dogs, and cats will not be left out. The walk itself will take place in the evening at Will Rogers State Historic Park; SCA’s Strut Your Mutt volunteer coordinator Debbie Rankin likes to call it “Date Night with your Best Fur-end.” Because cats prefer to stay at home, you can bring your dog or a friend’s dog to the event with a $30 donation, or if you can’t make it, you can join as a virtual team member or donate to the fund-raiser. Information about the fund-raiser can be found here.

The goal is to raise $25,000 by Sept. 1.

The walk is the only all-volunteer fund-raiser that SCA is holding this year to help offset operation costs and help as many cats as possible. Expenses were huge this year; they included Operation 74, in which SCA pulled 63 out of 74 hoarded cats from the shelter before they could be euthanized, vetted them and had them treated. Some are still being boarded. The organization also engages in daily trap/spay-neuter/ activities; those who can be adopted will be fostered; that takes funds, too. Rankin said that their working capital is at an all-time low. 

To support or join, click here. Your donation is tax deductible, and SCA uses all funds to support their good work.

19th Annual Wag n’ Walk Benefitting the Animal Care Center, Saturday, Sept. 27, Eisenhower Park at Seal Beach Pier, Main Street and Ocean Boulevard, Seal Beach, 9:00AM–2:00PM. Registration Information Online

Join Grand Marshall Justin Rudd and his dogs Riley and POTUS in supporting the animals in residence at the Seal Beach Animal Care Center! Bring your two- and four-legged friends to stroll through Seal Beach and enjoy our animal expo, with fun for the entire family! Register online, or just come for the fun!

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”