Coronavirus: Family emergency planning should take pets into account

  • Callie Acosta of Riverside gives love to her newly adopted Gizz-Moe, a 10-year-old, blind, shih tzu mix, at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chairs are set up outside in case of a crowd at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center’s intake area in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. “Visitors are following the six foot rule. Families are obviously staying together, but the others are doing good with following. Sometimes it takes a verbal reminder, but they have all be very receptive and have reacted positively,” says Molly Shannon, community relations mgr. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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  • Penelope, 10, is greeted by a gloved and masked potential owner at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Callie Acosta of Riverside shows her enthusiasm after adopting Gizz-Moe, a 10-year-old, blind shih tzu mix, at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. Southern California agencies recommend pet owners have a plan for someone to take care of their animals should they get sick with coronavirus. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Angela Eaton of Menifee walks toward the grassy area to meet a prospective dog at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Gini, 2, gets exercise with Caitlyn Fuller, adoption counselor, at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chairs are set up outside in case of a crowd at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center’s intake area in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. “Visitors are following the six foot rule. Families are obviously staying together, but the others are doing good with following. Sometimes it takes a verbal reminder, but they have all be very receptive and have reacted positively,” says Molly Shannon, community relations mgr. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Animals are up for adoption, including some surrenders due to the coronavirus at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • “Help may be available in the form of friends, family or community resources. An example is our Pet Food Assistance Program, which provides dog or cat food to those experiencing a hardship. Most organizations, including ours, would prefer for pets to stay with their owners, but understand that’s not always possible. That’s where our owner surrenders, done by appointment, can help,” Molly Shannon, community relations mgr., says at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • “If you’ve been thinking of adopting, now is a great time. You’ll be home more to help the pet get acclimated to you and it’s new house. Also, pet owners should reach out if they need help during this time,” Molly Shannon, community relations mgr., says at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • If you need a three-legged friend, Abel is your man, up for adoption at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Aspen is an owner surrender due to the coronavirus at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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Southern California residents should keep pets in mind during the coronavirus pandemic — and not just their own pets, officials say.

Animal care agencies in recent days have advised people to create an emergency plan for their pets, just as they should have family emergency plans. Such a plan for pets would be executed if an animal owner is hospitalized for coronavirus and could include plans for someone to care for the pet or pets.

In addition, with many shelters closed or having limited services during the pandemic, people may be asked to look out for and temporarily care for strays they may find in their neighborhoods.

The San Bernardino Police Department said that it and the San Bernardino County Coalition of Animal Shelters are asking residents to prepare emergency plans for their pets.

“With the rapid increase of (coronavirus) cases in Southern California, the demand for hospital stays and medical assistance from hospitals and medical providers is escalating,” police said in a statement. “Animal shelters are preparing for a surge in lost and temporarily homeless animals as a result.”

The Inland Valley Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said pet owners should put together extra food, two weeks of medication, a kennel and any other necessary supplies for a pet in the event of illness.

In addition, pet owners should find a temporary caregiver for their pets. Caregivers could range from a family member or neighbor to a pet-sitter or boarding facility.

“Make sure all pets have proper identification with your name and contact information,” San Bernardino police said. “Document whether your pet(s) are up to date on vaccinations, write your veterinarian’s contact information and provide the information of some family or friends who will be able to update your pet’s caregiver on your medical status.”

LA Animal Services offered similar advice on an emergency plan for pet owners in a March 13 statement.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said it isn’t uncommon for deputies to run into situations involving pets and their owners.

“Each incident is on a case-by-case basis,” officials said in a statement. “Depending on the situation, we either coordinate with a family member, neighbor or we contact animal control to take possession of the animal. Ultimately, it really depends on the circumstances.”

Several animal shelters throughout Southern California have shut down or have limited operations during the coronavirus pandemic. Those who need information or services should contact their local shelter or check its website.

“People need to figure out who is going to take care of their pets if they go to the hospital or god forbid, they die,” said Maryanne Dell, former pets columnist for the Orange County Register and president of the Shamrock Rescue Foundation in Santa Ana.

Dell said someone could ask a vet if they can board their pet if something were to happen to them, or arrange with a friend who could keep the animal at their house

“By having a plan, you can rest assured that your animal companions will be cared for no matter the circumstance,” the Inland Valley Humane Society & SPCA said. “Your preparedness plan also allows public animal shelters to maintain space and be better prepared for stray pets, animal welfare emergencies and the upcoming kitten season.”

LA Animal Services also said Wednesday that it will not turn away any sick or injured animals during the pandemic. It also suggested that people finding pets wandering in their neighborhoods post photos and descriptions of them on social media — and consider sheltering them for up to 30 days to free up space in shelters.

“Another way Angelenos can help is to consider our Shelter-at-Home Program and foster the dog or cat, while searching for the owner,” LA Animal Services said.

The Shelter-at-Home program is a process through which a person finds a pet, advises Animal Services that it is lost and then houses the animal while searching for its owner. Animal Services said after 30 days but before 32 days, the person who found the pet must either decide to keep it or surrender the animal to Animal Services.

A person housing a pet through the program will free up space in shelters throughout the city.

“We’re also taking in pets whose owner has died, leaving them alone, as well as taking in pets whose owner lives alone and is too sick to care for them,” Brenda Barnette, general manager for LA Animal Services, said in a statement Wednesday.

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Woman gets probation for role in O.C.-based scheme to trade in endangered rhinoceros horns

LOS ANGELES — A woman who participated in a Garden Grove-based scheme to illegally trade in endangered South African black rhinoceros horns was sentenced Monday to three years of probation that includes a year of home detention.

Nhu Mai Nguyen, 49, formerly of the San Bernardino County city of Highland, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder to pay a $2,000 fine and participate in counseling for gambling addiction during the period of probation.

Nguyen agreed to forfeit 100 gold bars seized from her safe deposit box.

Nguyen is among five defendants who pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court since 2012 to their roles in the smuggling conspiracy, which generated millions of dollars in profits, as well as money to purchase more contraband rhinoceros horns and pay bribes to customs officials in at least one other nation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to court papers, Nguyen received packages of rhino horns at a nail salon she formerly operated and transferred them to her former boyfriend, Jimmy Kha, knowing that the packages contained the horns of endangered animals. The horns were eventually shipped to China and her native Vietnam.

“I know that what I’ve done is wrong,” Nguyen told the judge through a translator, asking for home detention “if your honor would forgive me for what I did.”

In some Asian countries, where it sells for about $1,400 an ounce, powdered rhino horn is rumored to cure cancer, improve general health and prevent illness. It is also used to treat dozens of ailments, including hangovers, according to Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Father and son Jimmy and Felix Kha, both of Garden Grove, each admitted in 2012 to purchasing white and black rhinoceros horn in interstate and intrastate commerce, knowing that the animals were protected by federal law as endangered and threatened species. Both defendants stated that they purchased the horns in order to export them overseas to be sold and made into libation cups or traditional medicine.

Both acknowledged making payments to Vietnamese customs officials to ensure clearance of horn shipments sent to that country. In addition, the Khas each admitted to failing to pay income tax owed in 2009 and 2010.

In May 2013, Snyder sentenced Jimmy and Felix Kha to 42 and 46 months in prison, respectively.

At the peak of the scheme in 2011, 448 wild rhinos had been slaughtered for their horns in South Africa alone, prosecutors wrote in court papers.

Illegal trafficking in wildlife has been ranked as the fourth most valuable illicit economy in the world, behind narcotics, guns and human trafficking, and is estimated to be worth several billion dollars a year, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Man charged with killing protected mountain lion P-38, which roamed mountains northwest of LA

VENTURA — A Simi Valley man was charged with shooting and killing a protected mountain lion that roamed the mountains northwest of Los Angeles and was wearing a GPS tracking collar.

Alfredo Gonzalez, 60, was charged with two misdemeanors for allegedly shooting the male cougar, known as P-38, and vandalizing its collar, the Ventura County district attorney’s office announced Tuesday.

It is illegal to shoot a mountain lion without a state permit.

Prosecutors believe that Gonzalez shot the animal in the head in Simi Valley, possibly on July 2, when National Park Service researchers received a “mortality signal” from the collar, the agency said.

Prosecutors have not released a possible motive for the shooting.

P-38 was born in 2012 and was known to roam the Santa Susana Mountains. He was believed to have fathered four litters of cubs.

The mountain lion was part of a population that park service biologists have been studying for more than a decade.

If convicted, Gonzalez could be sentenced to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. He also might have to pay $2,300 in restitution for vandalizing the collar, the district attorney’s office said.

It was not immediately clear whether Gonzalez had an attorney.

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Zoofari celebration supports animal care

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Rosie the snake, an armadillo, a spectacled owl and a French rooster welcomed 300 guests to the Santa Ana Zoo’s 25th annual gala. Hosted by the Friends of Santa Ana Zoo, the Zoofari dinner and fundraiser on Aug. 27 celebrated the zoo’s dedication to animal conservation.

“Zoofari has grown from a dedicated group of Zoo supporters who gathered to enjoy a festive evening to celebrate all that the Santa Ana Zoo has to offer,” said Cathi Decker, executive director of FOSAZ.

Best known for its large collection of monkeys, the Santa Ana Zoo opened 65 years ago. The reason for the zoo’s monkey menagerie: The land was donated under a provision that requires the zoo to house at least 50 monkeys. Thus, monkeys have been a huge inspiration for much of the zoo’s development – which now includes a soon-to-open Fifty Monkey Ferris Wheel.

Zoofari gala guests had an opportunity to tour the zoo, which was decorated with purple, black and silver flourishes, and see the area where a giant river otter habitat is planned.

The gala’s live and silent auctions raised $100,000.

“It means so much, especially raising the funds needed for all the special projects and improvements going on here,” Decker said.

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Ringling Bros. shuts down the big top after 146 years

By TAMARA LUSH

UNIONDALE, N.Y.  — With laughter, hugs and tears — and the requisite death-defying stunts — the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus received its final standing ovation Sunday night as it performed its last show.

“We are, forevermore, the Greatest Show on Earth,” boomed Johnathan Lee Iverson, who has been the ringmaster since 1999. His son, who also performed, stood by his side. The show was held at the Nassau County Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, about 30 miles  east of New York City.

It was an emotional 2 1/2 hours for those who worked on the circus. Many of Ringling’s employees are second, third and even fourth-generation circus performers, while others met their spouses while touring. All spent months on the road, traveling from city to city in Ringling’s train cars and describing themselves as a giant family, albeit one with many clowns.

Big cat trainer Alexander Lacey hugs one of the tigers during the final show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, N.Y. Ringling's circus began its final show Sunday evening after 146 years of wowing audiences with its "Greatest Show on Earth." (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) ORG XMIT: NYJJ109
Big cat trainer Alexander Lacey hugs one of the tigers during the final show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, N.Y. Ringling’s circus began its final show Sunday evening after 146 years of wowing audiences with its “Greatest Show on Earth.” (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Two performers hug after the final show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) ORG XMIT: NYJJ120
Two performers hug after the final show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Sunday, May 21, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

But it also was the fans who felt like family.

Elaine Bario, a 57-year-old usher at the Nassau County Coliseum, said she’s seen the circus every time it’s been on Long Island — some years as a child with her father, who also was an usher at the same venue.

“The animals, this is where we fell in love with them,” she said. “We got to see animals here and the Bronx Zoo. We don’t go on safaris.”

Bario cried as she watched the final big cat act with its leopards, tigers and Alexander Lacey, the handsome animal trainer.

“I’ve always had a crush on the lion tamers,” she said, laughing through tears.

But it was those animal shows that led to the circus’ eventual demise.

Over the years, animal rights activists had targeted Ringling, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse. In May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline. People, it seemed, didn’t want to see a circus without elephants. Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would close the show, citing declining attendance and high operating costs.

A handful of protesters stood outside the venue on Sunday, with signs that said “compassion always wins,” and “the future is animal free.”

Feld Entertainment CEO Kenneth Feld said that “we all have to embrace change.”

Feld’s father and uncle bought the circus in 1967. It was sold to Mattel in 1971, but the Feld family continued to manage the shows. The Felds bought the circus back in 1982.

Earlier Sunday, a group of retired and former circus performers sat across the street at a hotel bar, laughing and hugging and sharing memories of tours past.

“There’s a lot of mixed emotions, said Rev. George “Jerry” Hogan, Ringling’s circus chaplain. “It’s a reunion, but it’s bittersweet. I’m seeing people I haven’t seen in years.”

Once a mainstay of entertainment in small towns and big cities across the country, Ringling had two touring circuses this season, one of which ended its run earlier this month in Providence, Rhode Island . That show was the more traditional, three-ring circus, while the one performing this weekend had a narrative storyline. Called “Out of This World,” it was set in futuristic outer space.

In the end, though, Feld executives said they knew the circus couldn’t compete with iPhones, the internet, video games and massively branded and carefully marketed characters. Their other productions — Frozen on Ice, Marvel Live, Supercross, Monster Trucks, Disney on Ice — resonate better with younger generations.

But that didn’t stop the circus from giving the performance of their life, one last time, to one last crowd.

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Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

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Seal Beach animal shelter’s 15 shaggy dog tales have happy endings

SEAL BEACH — It’s a shaggy dog story. But instead of rambling along pointlessly, this tale comes to a happy conclusion – albeit after a harrowing start.

The Seal Beach Animal Care Center recently took in 15 filthy long-haired dogs ranging in age from, approximately, 2 to 7 years old. The mutts, which appear to be poodle mixes, had spent their entire lives practically piled on top of each other in a small outdoor enclosure, said Jane Parnes, lead volunteer at the shelter.

Parnes declined to say who rescued the dogs or where they were found. “They appear to be from several litters,” Parnes said. “They are clearly related.”

The little dogs arrived toting more than a pound of fur each – about one-tenth of their body weights.

Their coats, intended by nature to be white, were brown and matted. Tangled tresses completely obscured their faces. When shelter workers groomed the pups, their knotted fur came off in single dog-shaped clumps.

“All that hair had to be painful for them,” Parnes said.

The dogs grew up in a cramped pin, she said. “The area had no covering to protect them from rain and sun. They had little interaction with humans, just a bowl of dirty water and some food.”

The owner asked if he could keep one of the dogs, Parnes said. Rescuers turned down his request.

“I’ve been here 18 years and I’ve seen all sorts of things, including cigarette burns,” she said. “These dogs may not have scars, but theirs is some of the worst abuse I’ve ever seen. The sad thing is, lots of dogs live in similar situations.”

Despite their grim back story, the dogs are sweet.

“They are in various stages of being scared,” Parnes said. “But they all wag their tails and give kisses. They love being held.”

At first, Parnes thought the shelter would hang on to the dogs for a few weeks to acclimate them to humans. Some are under treatment for eye infections.

But three have already been adopted: Shannon, Quinn and Rainbow.

“People fall in love with these dogs,” Parnes said.

Of course, Parnes hopes that every shaved shaggy dog will end up with loving owners.

“But then,” she added, “I wish all of our dogs and cats could find homes.”

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