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Shelter Supervisor Mary Sage holds Charmain, a young Domestic Short Hair female, outside one of the new cattery condos. The cattery consists of three rows of glistening cat condos that can house nearly 65 felines, when at full capacity. / Laura Austin Photo

Why adopting a pet from the shelter is preferable

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer– Make an appointment to visit the City of Ridgecrest Animal Shelter to choose a pet. The value of a shelter pet is more than rescue, it is a commitment to good health when adding a pet to your home.  Located at 411 San Bernardino Boulevard, also known as County Line Road, the shelter is open Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 5pm and Saturday 10am to 4pm. They are closed Sundays and major holidays. They start answering phones at 9am and same day appointments are available by calling 760-499-5190.

“Currently we’re doing everything by appointment,” says Shelter Supervisor Mary Sage. “We found that it’s easier to do it by appointment, because a lot of times people want to visit with animals and the room or the yard  have people in them and they have to stand around and wait. We’re trying not to have too many people in the shelter at any given time.”

Adopting a pet from the City of Ridgecrest Animal Shelter is more affordable than it appears at first glance. Since there is a fee attached, people may be inclined to grab that free kitten or puppy they see on social media; however, these folks need to consider that responsible pet ownership includes vaccines and spaying/neutering. With the shortage of veterinarian services in Ridgecrest, and nationwide, this can be a difficult task.

Sage tells us, “Male cats are $70 and female cats are $108. That covers their surgery, microchip, their vaccination, and health exam. So that way, once they leave here, pretty much the majority of everything is done. They just need to come back for follow up vaccines if that animal needs those.” The follow-up vaccines are done at the shelter because it is difficult to see a vet these days. They are not just for shelter animals. The shelter offers every vaccine “except for the rabies because you need a licensed veterinarian to do the rabies.” The fee is $25 to be paid in cash only which goes into their Police and Community Together (PACT) account which allows quick access to funds for emergencies or immediate needs. 

“A lot of the surgeries that are available through the vets are a lot more expensive than a lot of people can afford,” says Sage, “We’re just trying to help people, especially with cats, because we have such an overpopulation of cats and kittens in our valley and we need to get a handle on it. We’re hoping in the near future to start something for dogs as well.

“People don’t realize for every animal they breed or allow to have puppies or kittens that’s a chance that’s taken away from a shelter animal getting adopted because they can go get something for free. A lot of people think. ‘I have to get shots. I have to get it fixed.’ They don’t realize they may be getting something for free in the beginning, but the cost value to keep that animal healthy, up to date on shots and regular veterinary care is going to cost them more in the long run.

“People just need to realize their animals are much healthier if they’re fixed and, more often than not, their animals don’t tend to roam if they’re fixed. They make better pets. What people don’t understand is by the time a dog is one to two years old, all that testosterone built up, they think they’re macho dogs. Same with the cats. They think they are something strutting themselves, spraying houses, fighting with other cats and breeding everything in sight. I hate to call it a public nuisance but it’s not healthy for the animal to have all that pent up frustration and all that going on and to bring more animals in this world that we don’t need.” 

Unfortunately, Sage tells us there is no such thing as a “No Kill” shelter. If a shelter puts down less then 10% of its population, it is called “No Kill.” The difficult task of ending an animal’s life is up to Sage. She really does all she can to avoid it. “I’m the only one that makes that decision, which makes it very hard. Because I would never put that on anybody to have to decide. It’s because it’s not easy. I don’t take it lightly, I will walk the kennels and interact with the animals and take them out and look at behavior and adoptability.” She marks their cage as a choice and then goes back later to remove the mark. “It’s not a quick decision who’s going to go. It’s a whole process.

  “We don’t put very many animals to sleep, but we do put animals to sleep. This is because of an irresponsible society that we get blamed for. People’s unwanted animals for whatever reason, and I heard them all. ‘We’re moving.’ ‘I just don’t have time for it anymore.’ ‘Doesn’t match the furniture.’ People for no good reason at all are turning in animals that they’ve owned and some for three, four or five years. How you can do that? I don’t know.”

Pet owners are urged to do all they can to find a new home for their pet on their own. “People say, ‘Well, isn’t that your job?’ And I tell them, ‘No, that’s not what the animal shelters’ intention was, when they were built in the beginning; it was a safe place for animals who accidentally get out to come and wait for their owners to claim them. Not a dumping ground for unwanted animals.’  And that’s what a lot of shelters have become, a place for people to get rid of their animals, quickly, without guilt. Handed off to us and walk out the door.”

For those who haven’t been to the shelter in a few years, the remodeled cat condo cattery is captivating. The old cattery was in a 10 X 10 room with wire cages. That room is now a living room for people to socialize with the cat of their choice. They can interact, play, relax and see if the kitty is compatible. They also use the space to let kitties out when their condo is being cleaned. They get to stretch and scratch on trees.

The visiting room is the entryway to the cattery where you find three rows of glistening cat condos housing  64 felines, when at full capacity. The condos feature a separate vented space for the litter box and a room with food, water, bedding and benches. This is a healthier environment for the cats. Previously, disease would inadvertently be passed from cage to cage as well-meaning visitors would stick their fingers in cages to pet and interact with a cat, then do the same to other cats.

But be careful, it is difficult to just look. They all look like family.