Responsible Pet Ownership

How to find your pet a new home

UHA receives many inquiries from anxious dog owners who have realized they won’t be able to take care of their pet for much longer but who don’t know how to go about finding a new home for it.

The number of calls and emails hits a peak in summer, when shelters are already rammed. Terrified dogs escape from their yards during the Fourth of July fireworks, people drop off their dogs when they go on vacation – either not knowing or not caring that their safety isn’t guaranteed – others move and make no provisions for their animals… the list is endless.

If you find yourself in the difficult position of having to look for a new home for your dog, the important thing is to be proactive. We’ve put together a plan of action you can follow.

I am attentive!

1. Above all, be aware that leaving your dog at a shelter should be a last resort, not a first port of call. Not everyone knows this, partly because the word ‘shelter’ implies a refuge, a place of safety, where an animal will be secure for as long as necessary, until a new owner comes forward.

Some people even think shelters can house a limitless number of animals and that they actually make money from taking them in and adopting them out. This couldn’t be further from the truth: most shelters are severely underfunded, adoption rates vary wildly from shelter to shelter and even most of the so-called no-kill shelters are full and have to turn away animals.

2. Start early. You can give your dog a much better chance if you begin looking for a new home as soon as possible. You might not want to give up your pet, but allowing yourself enough time to take the necessary action can make a huge difference in keeping your dog out of the shelter.

I love cuddles!

3. Ask a rescue group for a “courtesy listing” on their website and/or Facebook page. Even if a rescue is full and can’t take your dog it may well agree do this, by posting an ad on Petfinder or Adopt-A-Pet that includes a description and photos and/or video, as well as your contact details. In return, consider making a donation to the rescue group as a thank you.

4. Make some good-quality marketing materials. Do not underestimate the importance of this. Whether you’re creating a flier, soliciting the help of a rescue group, or posting an ad on Craigslist, the quality of the description – and, in particular, the photos – makes a huge difference. Videos, which can be taken with most mobile phones, are also really helpful and can be published for free on YouTube, Facebook and the like. 

For the description, people will want to know:

•    Profile: what’s the dog’s breed, sex, age, weight, general personality and temperament?
•    Is it good/not good with: dogs, cats, kids?
•    Is it housetrained? Leash trained?
•    Medical information: Does it have any health issues? Is it up-to-date on vaccinations? Altered? Microchipped?

Include information on the dog’s personality – does the dog have any endearing habits? What kind of home would he/she do well in? You know your dog best, so the more intimate the description, the better. While people will want to know why you are rehoming your pet, the majority of the description should focus on the dog. Keep it positive.

In addition, when compiling a description, it helps to visualize the perfect adopter for your pet, and to write the description to appeal to that person.

For photos, people will want to see:

•    Multiple images – a good face shot and shots that show the body/size of the dog.
•    A happy, relaxed expression and body language.
•    An outside setting, with natural light, preferably on green grass.
•    For small dogs – show them in someone’s arms to help give an idea of their size.
•    Photos that show all of the elements the dog works well with – especially children and other dogs.
•    Avoid: dark photos, the dog tied up (get someone to hold the leash – it looks friendlier anyway), the dog looking down (it distorts its face/expression).

For videos, people will want to see:

•    How the dog interacts with people, other dogs, etc.
•    How the dog walks on a leash.

Take as many of these steps as you can and your dog will stand a much better chance of finding a great new home.

I am great with kids!

Blackie’s Story: Why Spaying and Neutering Matter

Meet Blackie, the poster puppy for spaying and neutering. Many might ask how a well-behaved, loving four-month old puppy winds up at a shelter as an owner surrender. Unfortunately, the answer is all too common: Blackie was part of an unplanned and unwanted litter. Unable to care for their own dogs plus a litter of Rottweiler-Pit Bull mix puppies, Blackie’s former owners surrendered her to the shelter.  Celene, a committed volunteer, instantly fell in love with the sweet puppy. Celene recalls:

“She was the perfect forever dog, the one that would cuddle up and try to fit in your lap.  She was smart and easy to train, she would be fun to take on hikes or chase tennis balls in a dog park.  She was adorable and would be the dog to show off to the world. It broke my heart to see her shaking in the shelter and shattered me to think she might have lost her life, since her owners couldn’t find a home for her all  because they didn’t spay or neuter their pets.” 

Stories like Blackie’s often don’t end well. Young puppies have immature immune systems and are susceptible to disease. Further, crowded shelters that receive stray and surrendered animals every day cannot keep dogs indefinitely, and even puppies can be put to sleep if no one comes to adopt them. 

Thankfully, though, Blackie’s story has a happy ending. With a little help from her UHA Glamour Shot and video, which highlighted her winning personality, and the advocacy of UHA and shelter volunteers, Blackie was adopted. Because she was spayed on adoption, she will not contribute to the cycle of unwanted, homeless litters.

“The kisses she gave me will always be a happy memory knowing she is safe now,” Celene says.

Please help stop this cycle by spaying and neutering your pets, and encouraging your friends and neighbors to do the same. Some low-cost spay/neuter resources include:

The Jason Debus Heigl Foundation spays and neuters animals for free through their Heigl Ray of Hope Program. Residents of Baldwin Park (zip code 91706) and El Monte (zip codes 91731, 91732, and 91733) can set up an appointment with one phone call to 818-755-6045.

 The Pasadena Humane Society spays and neuters Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes for free in select areas surrounding Pasadena, and sterilizes all other dogs from select areas at a low cost.  Visit for more information.

Fix Nation spay and neuters feral cats for free and tame cats for a low cost.  Visit for more information.

For a complete list of Spay and Neuter Clinics in Los Angeles County area, please check (Note: This website cannot be viewed in Mozilla Firefox.)

Happy-Not Harrowing-4th of July!



BANG! BOOM! CRASH! Happy 4th of July!

What to us are sounds of celebration, from firework explosions in the night-time sky, to fire crackers slamming against the ground, may be quite different and even horrifying to the ears of an animal. Well-meaning families often bring their four-legged friends to large crowded gatherings, pool parties, and picnics to enjoy our exhilarating Independence Day. Without preparations for a safe day for your pet, disaster could strike. Many dogs become frantic and nervous in these situations, sometimes even fleeing in fear. This causes a great spike in the number of lost/stray intakes at local animal shelters, where dogs sometimes never reunite with their owners. What can you do to keep your pet safe and sound this 4th? Here are some helpful recommendations:


  • Due to open gates and doors and loud, startling noises from fireworks, becoming lost is the top July 4th holiday hazard for pets. Keep your pet indoors while you are enjoying the fireworks show.
  • Keeping your dog inside with soothing music playing during fireworks can help him feel safe and secure.
  • If your dog is fearful of fireworks, speak with your vet for a recommendation for a mild sedative. Trembling, pacing, and heavy panting are all signs your dog is stressed.
  • For parties at home, keep your dog away from items like glow sticks and citronella candles, and busy with some special or favorite toys.

  • Keep your pooch away from forgotten plates of food and drinks. Alcohol, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, chocolate, and onions are especially dangerous.

  • For Fourth of July outings, plan ahead and bring a fresh supply of water and a doggie bowl.

  • Never leave your dog in a hot car.

  • Whether you are at home or away, make sure your pet is microchipped and wears an ID tag with a current phone number at all times. If you have moved or changed phone numbers since adopting your pet, verifying that the contact information registered with your pet’s microchip is up-to-date will help your pet get home faster if he should get lost.

I can remember my first Independence Day with my little Pomeranian, Romeo. Thinking it was a perfect opportunity to show off my sweet companion to friends, family, and other dogs, I popped him in the car and drove off to the nearest firework show. Not only was it horrendously crowded, as usual, but it was hot, humid and a bit bewildering for Romeo. This alone might have been stressful for him, but I had no idea what was in store when the first firework thundered in the sky above us! Suddenly, with a shrieking and shaking pup in my arms, I realized what a terrible mistake I had made. Minutes later, I was dashing into my car, frantic pooch in tow, wishing I had put more thought into his possible reaction to the earth-shattering sounds.

Romeo on Appalachian Trail

Romeo on The Appalachian Trail in VA, June 2012

Of course he couldn’t understand that these unexpected, intense sounds were to be enjoyed with transfixed “Ooos and Aaahs.” He just wanted to run in terror! Thankfully, he was fine by the time we got home and to the security of my bed, but I have never assumed he’d like to join me at a firework show since!

So, if you are not certain of your dog’s behavior in these types of festivities, consider having a back-up plan in case your pooch doesn’t handle it well!

Trikin’ with your Pooch

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for ways for my dogs to get exercise. I’m a firm believer that “a tired dog is a happy dog.” I don’t get the opportunity to get them as worn out as I’d like every day, but regular exercise is key to a sound mind and body.

I walk my dogs daily, but there is nothing like a good run to get the kinks out. Since I’m not a runner or a rollerblader, the next best thing for me is a bicycle.

The problem with running a dog alongside a bike is the unsteadiness of it all if the dog decides to stop suddenly or head in the other direction. Personally, I like to be able to keep both hands gripping the handlebars, not just one. Plus, I have two dogs to exercise, which increases the odds one of us will end up tangled in the spokes.

I decided I need to find some other kind of cycle, one that would allow for more stability and would allow me to be closer to the dogs level so I could keep an eye on them more easily. I wanted to know if my dogs were eager to run faster or if they were falling behind, or if they got something stuck in their paw and were limping.

dog running along side bicycle trikeAfter looking online I found a number of sites that featured some kind of contraption that would allow the dogs to pull you along, but I wanted to actually get some exercise in the bargain, and decided that wasn’t for me.

This led me to start researching adult tricycles. There were quite a few out there, and Wal-Mart even sold one, but in my reading it seemed that the regular trikes weren’t that great at going around corners. Plus, I wanted to ride a bit lower down.

This narrowed the field considerably, and I ended up researching recumbent trikes. Some of them have you super close to the ground, which isn’t what I wanted. Seemed too much like lying down to me, which would make it harder to see what was going on around you. No, I wanted to be higher than that. Luckily, someone else thought this was a good idea, and I ended up on the website of a company named Sun Bicycles.

I really wanted to try one out, but none of the local bike shops carried any. So basically I had to buy one sight unseen and hope for the best. I wasn’t ready to plunk down $900 for something I just thought would work in theory, and so decided research rental options.

As it turns out, Venice Beach is filled with bicycle rental shops, and I was able to track down a place that rented recumbent trikes. Woo Hoo! We packed up the car with my pooches and headed to the sand. My boyfriend and I each took one dog, and set off down the crowded sidewalk. Felt funny at first but the dogs took to it right away and I know I had a winner of a plan.

It was easy to pedal, felt super comfortable, and the dogs loved it. I got to watch them trot along, eyes glittering, tongues out, wind in their hair. They looked great and we all had a blast. That settled it. I would get my own trike.

I contacted Sun Bicycles and they gave me a list of local bike shops that would assemble it for me. The next thing was to figure out how to attach the dogs to the bike. I bought a metal spring-loaded contraption that attached to the frame of the bike, but this didn’t last long as we could never get it tight enough to where it wouldn’t start moving out of place. Besides, it was too rigid and didn’t allow enough movement for the dog.

Turns out all I needed was a good harness (I like the Easy Walk Harnass, which I turn around for trike rides so the clip area is between their shoulders) and a stretchy leash, and I was able to find a heavy duty model on that worked like a charm. The trick was to tie it far enough back (I now keep it attached it behind my seat) so the dogs can’t cross in front of the front tire. It’s just long enough so that I can have both dogs on my right side, but short enough that they can’t get too far away. Perfect!

Now I’m able to ride around the neighborhood with my dogs and not worry about tipping over if they decide to stop suddenly—I just feel a gentle tug. An added benefit is that my elbows don’t hurt riding my trike the way they would on a bike. It’s like sitting in a chair. Your upper body can be totally relaxed, but your legs still have to a little extra work as you don’t have the ability to sit up in your seat and use your weight on the pedals. That’s okay by me. My legs will just be in better shape.

I avoid busy streets for safety reasons, and choose the quietest streets possible because it makes for a more enjoyable ride. An added bonus, is that everybody who sees us does a double take and gives me a big grin and a thumbs up. “Now that’s the way to do it!” they say. “Where can I get one?”

To see my trike in action, watch this short video of us heading up my street.

If you decide you’d like a trike, too, I’d recommend getting a side mirror so you can see cars coming up from behind, a light for when it starts getting dark, a reflector for the back, a bell so you can alert people you are nearby, and an orange flag so you are very visible. Although they don’t sell Sun Trikes on Amazon, there are a number of other less expensive models to choose from, some of which I’ve posted in the left column.

Photo Credit: Scott Mucci (top) and Richard Masoner