The dogs at OC Animal Care need help.
There are more than 300 dogs currently housed at the Orange County animal shelter in Tustin.
But after a fire at the former Marine Corps Air Station — just across the street from the shelter — all the dogs had to be moved inside.
That means no outdoor kennels, no walks and no outside playtime.
The dogs have already been stuck inside since Nov. 7, when the hangar burned to the ground.
Shelter officials put out a call for emergency fosters Wednesday to get as many dogs as possible out of the shelter and into homes where they can stretch out and get fresh air.
“We’re asking for fosters to open their home just to give them a break because we’re not sure how long this is going to last,” OC Community Resources spokesperson Alexa Pratt said in a phone call Wednesday.
They’re looking for fosters who can take a dog home for the next two weeks. All emergency fosters will receive a starter kit containing food and basic supplies like a leash, collar and tags.
It comes after Tustin city officials confirmed there’s asbestos in the debris from the fire.
Some schools in the Tustin Unified School District are still closed.
The shelter is also transporting some dogs to other shelters, but many are full and can’t take in any more animals.
“We are taking a multi-faceted approach to the ongoing emergency, including transporting dogs to other shelters,” Pratt wrote in an email to Voice of OC Wednesday. “We continue to reach out to our partners in the local area, state, and beyond, but right now, shelters across the country are at capacity.”
“We are frequently hearing that they wish they could help but are unfortunately full,” she continued.
In the meantime, shelter staff have been working on other enrichment options for their dogs while they’re stuck inside. That includes using strong, durable chew toys, which can provide mental stimulation for the animals.
April Josephson, who runs the Pet Adoption Center in Lake Forest, said she’s glad to see OC Animal Care asking for fosters to make sure the dogs have somewhere to go.
“It’s something that can help relieve some of their overcrowding, as well as assist individual dogs with decompression from the shelter environment, provide better enrichment and make them more adoptable,” Josephson said.
Josephson said she wants to help, but her abilities to take in dogs are limited.
“I’m consulting with my board of directors regarding what to do with regard to taking in any OCAC dogs into our rescue, as we want to help,” she said. “It is a delicate balancing act for us without major funding.”
The shelter is still open for most operations. All adoptions are currently indoors only, and all outdoor events have been canceled.
Animal advocates have criticized OC Animal Care over the past few years for not allowing visitors to walk through the kennel area.
Margot Boyer, who created an online petition with over 23,000 signatures calling for the shelter to reopen to the public, said the problem wouldn’t be so bad if visitors could browse through the kennel areas when looking for a new pet.
“The 300 plus dogs are confined in half their kennel unable to even go out to go potty, which is untenable for some dogs,” Boyer said. “If the shelter had been open to the public as they were pre-pandemic, the shelter would not have been so full and unable to cope.”
The shelter is still accepting lost or stray dogs during this time, but staff encourage the public to try and locate an owner before bringing in more dogs.
Residents can contact OCACPrograms@occr.ocgov.com to become an emergency dog foster.
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Tracy Wood Reporting Fellow. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.
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