Rescue groups deal with the ugly side of pet adoption and ownership

Sherri Stankewitz runs a gamut of conversation that leapfrogs from harangue to vent to exuberance to exasperation—sometimes a couple of mindsets at once. With 25 years as an animal rescuer and advocate, she has the right to vocalize every one of them.

“$60,000 for a lilac fluffy Frenchie!” she exclaimed, indicating a website advertising French bulldogs for sale at exorbitant prices. “My God, I’m busting my ass here every day to spay and neuter these dogs, and now there’s dogs selling for this money?” She nearly punched a hole in the monitor with her index finger.

Most people love their dogs, be they purebred or mutt, but Sherri’s rescued too many purebreds or supposed purebreds who are overbred, sick and unceremoniously dumped. She’s had her share of roaming pets hit by cars and has tended to their costly medical needs. The last few weeks saw a singular confluence of common doggie denominators in these areas.

“We were told about two dogs in casts in the Long Beach shelter,” she said. “I sent a friend to LBACC, and she said, there’s two more with a cast, and I said, are you crazy? Four dogs with casts?”

The dogs were all Chihuahua mixes brought to the shelter in unrelated incidents. When Sherri pulled the dogs, two of them had healed; the others received X-rays and clean casts at Fix Long Beach, the clinic that Sparky and the Gang shares space with.

“They were young dogs, so they healed pretty good,” she said. “The owners never came to claim them—nothing. How come they got four dogs hit by cars? There weren’t any fireworks that I know of.”

The little dogs were fidgety at first but are now having a great time playing, their injuries hopefully fading memories. Video by Kate Karp

Then came the bulldogs, both taken in at about the same time, both with deformities, and both from different owners.

“The first one was Penny that came from a situation of ‘my daughter is moving and has to get rid of her dog.’” Sherri said. “She sent me a picture of this face of this English bulldog, with her beautiful coat, which is a very rare color—patches, they call it—and her blue eye, also rare.

“But she’s super-deformed,” she continued, her voice rising. “They bred her to get her like that. They’re usually deaf and blind, and it’s a bad gene that no one should be breeding. She definitely was bred—she had a cesarean scar. People breed these dogs for the color and get $5,000 to $7,000 for them. And then they dump the mothers in shelters.”

When the clinic staff tried to pull blood from Penny, the dog turned blue in places. She’ll need surgery for a genetic breathing condition that a lot of brachycephalic (squashy-faced) animals, such as English bulldogs like Penny, Frenchies, pugs and Persian cats have. Sparky and the Gang volunteers have to wipe Penny’s runny nose continually because the mucus clogs her air pipes.

Penny’s surgery will be touch and go, and her future without the procedure will not go very far.

“Our vet has done these kinds of surgeries before but doesn’t give it a good prognosis—she may not come out of surgery,” Sherri said. “But we’re going to try.”

Peggy Sue, a French bulldog, came in a few days later. Sherri was initially incredulous that anyone would surrender a Frenchie because of the immense popularity of the breed.

“Well of course, when they show up, you realize that her legs are deformed, too,” Sherri said. “Its super-sad. Look at the way she runs around—she’s so happy and super-sweet, but she can only play for five minutes. And she’s not going to lead a long and happy life because of all this inbreeding. She looks cute and funny, but she can’t be a normal dog—she can’t jump on the couch.”

Peggy Sue had a cesarean scar, too, but it was an older one, the owner having sold the puppies weeks before. She looks and acts adorable but has bad joints and bad knees. Despite her infirmities, she’s garnered interest. Sherri thinks that her breed is a factor.

“We’ve actually gotten some requests for her,” Sherri said. “Granted, she’s a Frenchie, and everyone loves that breed, and when they have a little bit of a deformity, people may be apt to adopt them anyway.”

That, she said, is the heartbreak of rescue.

“There are people who say, oh, I’ll take a dog with one eye or three legs and I don’t care what breed it is, but then there are the breed-specific people that can’t afford to get a Frenchie and then might get one that’s—‘secondhand,” Sherri said. “They still get their Frenchie for a couple of hundred bucks.”

Even with a comparatively low adoption fee, any new owner of a brachycephalic pet needs to be knowledgeable about the veterinary bills that they may have because of health problems common to the breed.

“They really have a lot of issues, even when you get them from a good breeder—skin issues, breathing problems,” Sherri said. ““We were heartbroken when they arrived to see how neglected the previous owners kept them. These guys have to have air conditioning on for a long time, and they can’t go for long walks. People think it’s OK for them to be outside, but they can’t be.”

Penny and Peggy Sue, like all the Sparky rescues, are receiving a full veterinary workup to treat their weight, cherry eye, infected ears and, in Penny’s case, the ingrown nails. Of course, they’ll get a lot of loving care from Sherri and the other volunteers, again like all Sparky rescues. Sherri hopes to attract adopters who have experience with the breeds or wish to learn and are also willing and able to handle the veterinary obligations and cost.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of just doggy dogs waiting for you to come by and take them home. They also are subject to love and attention and give it back in triple proportion.

Video by Sherri Stankewitz

Virtually pets

 To apply for a dog, visit the website, fill out an application, or request a meet-and-greet by emailing [email protected]. Photos of your yard, fencing, sleeping area and other animals in home will be a help. Sparky will set at time for meet-and-greet as soon as the information is received. Access this link to donate and help with the medical needs of Penny and other rescued dogs.

smiling Holstein French bulldog with black saddle and tail, and white body and tail tip, lies on her side on a tile floor and smiles for the camera.

Meet the good Penny (in video) and pretty pretty pretty pretty Peggy Sue (above). Both dogs were used to breed puppies and overbreed themselves. These two sweet little angels are darling but will need a foster home or, better, a forever home with a human that knows the breed.

 

Sweet Penny loves her toys. Video by Kate Karp

 

 

squatty tan bully mix sits on a brown bedspread looking at camera.

Yet another coincidence—a Frenchie/English bulldog mix! Mamma G has lived outside in a yard with multiple dogs all her life. She has endured the cold, rain, heat, and terror of sirens and gunshots, along with fireworks and chaos.To add to this, she has had multiple litters. Sparky was able to get her altered and into rescue. She is gentle, sweet and oh, so happy to have a nice warm bed inside. She’s a short, cute and snuggly little pocket girl!

 

Meet two of the littles!

tan, foxy-looking dog looks to the rear.

This is Matteo, a young fella who looks like a little fox!

 

smiling tan Chihuahua mix stands on a blue platform.

Timothy has legs forever and a smile to match!

Great Furballs of Fun

“Cat Daddies” screening at the Art Theatre: 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 16, Art Theatre, 2025 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, $20.

Who says men usually don’t like cats? Kitten rescue The Little Lion Foundation and The Art Theatre, Long Beach’s oldest movie house, are partnering to present some intertwining tales—or is that tails—of adult human males whose lives were deepened and even transformed by their love for cats. The award-winning documentary will follow up with a Q&A with filmmaker Mye Hoang, a prize raffle and giveaways, and a chance to learn more about what The Little Lion Foundation is doing to benefit the local community. Proceeds will benefit The Little Lion Foundation—buy your tickets here.

Volunteers needed to bathe dogs: Sparky and the Gang, 1749 Magnolia Ave., Long Beach, in the Fix Long Beach clinic

Want a fun way to cool off? Come down to Sparky on a Saturday or any day you don’t work and help Sparky and the Gang bathe their doggies! This’ll be good for the dogs, since they’ll get attention from you, and good for you because you’ll be as damp as the doggies. As hot weather hits, that’s a plus! Email [email protected] for details.

 Adopt, adopt, adopt

woman in green apron and sunglasses, mask on chin, pats white pit bull. she's standing on cement path between two grass patches. Building is on left.

Photo by Dee Glick

Long Beach Animal Care Services open Sundays, with no appointment necessary

Please make our shelter at Long Beach Animal Care Service your first stop for adoption—it continues to fill with dogs and cats. LBACS is now open without any appointment necessary on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for adoptions and for intake of healthy stray dogs. . If you can’t come Sundays, appointments to adopt one of these sweet animals are readily available at [email protected] or 562-570-4925.

Appointments are easily available Wednesday through Saturday at The shelter has also been open since June 2021 for redemptions of personal pets without an appointment during regular business hours and also accepts any sick, dangerous or injured animal without appointment during regular business hours. Appointments are still required to surrender a healthy owned animal or to adopt a pet during regular hours, excluding the above-mentioned Sunday hours

Foster for awhile—or furever!

Photo courtesy of PetSmart Charities

If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!

These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list.

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Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

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.”
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