by Lori Weise, Founder and Director of Downtown Dog Rescue On Saturday June 16th, Downtown Dog Rescue joined forces with LA Animal Services, LA County Animal Control and the Amanda Foundation to bring another free vaccination clinic which also included a lot of free spay/neuter for the community of Watts.

Over the years, it’s been challenging to get people to donate to fund program for low income dog owners, a term, I actually don’t like writing but I don’t know any other term to describe the level of poverty that we are dealing with. If I could get more people to come out to the Watts clinics, maybe they would have had a different understanding of what’s going on? It’s people like Barbara who are making a difference in the community. She is a lifetime Watts resident and pit bull owner, who told me that she has endured two riots or uprisings, the crack epidemic that continues to devastate her community. What really bothered her was the constant push from the media categorize all of the problems in Watts as black and brown not getting along. In reality, people do get along. Often, poverty ties them together. She went on to tell me that she lost a child and some of her neighbors have lost children and it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, the hurt of seeing your child murdered never goes away. She barely finished her sentence when the tears were streaming down her face. How do I write that she is more than just someone who is low income and getting her pit bull spayed in a grant report for more funding?

I had to step away because I needed to take a call from Affordable Animal Hospital. Earlier in the day, a young woman named Cindy and her mom walked up to me without a dog and before they could start talking, they began crying. They told me a story of how their neighbors dogs jumped over the fence into their yard and killed their small dog and almost killed their German Shepherd. The horrible event occurred on Wednesday night, now Saturday, the dog had pain medication and antibiotics but they couldn’t afford the surgery to stitch him up. I sent them to our vet in Compton, they were able to raise part of the cost, DDR paid the other half. $350 meant the world to Cindy who could not stand to watch her dog suffer but had no options. Does her dog matter less because she is low income? Although she had done everything right, neutered and licensed her dog, if she could find a way to get the surgery, she felt she had no other option but to take her dog to the shelter to have him put down. We can all agree that there are not enough available homes for all the shelter dogs now, why add more dogs to the equation when we can set up programs to keep dogs like Cindy’s dog in their first home, making it their forever home.

Sometimes people just need a little help so they can keep their dog. Deborah and her 12 year old Chihuahua have been together since her dog was 6 weeks old. Deborah, in a wheel chair now, needs to have both of her knees replaced soon. With a surgery date in August and no friends or family to take care of her dog while she is in the hospital, she is desperately looking for someone take care of her dog for a month. She wants her dog back but started off our conversation telling me that she had to get rid of her dog today. She had never heard of the term foster home, at least not for dogs and was very open to the idea since she never wanted to actually get rid of her dog but she thought she had no other option. I promised to look for a foster home for her senior dog. One of our volunteers, Nick has a promising lead for a short term foster so the shelter will never enter the equation.

Every clinic has one person that is in extreme need and Lucia and her kids and their three Chihuahuas were that one family. A new baby in a stroller and three small children and another older handicapped boy at home, she told me that she needed help with her dogs which was pretty easy to do. As I helped her fill out her forms, she told me that she had half a gallon of milk and some rice at home and the kids were eating Cherrios for two meals a day. Yes, she had made some really bad choices in her lifetime and told me that her kids were loved but she couldn’t afford to feed everyone. We loaded her up with dog food and we paid for her dog licenses which seemed like a small gesture considering the mountain of problems that she was facing. Is she just another low income person who is getting two females and one male Chihuahua spayed and neutered? Not in my record keeping book.

Here are some amazing numbers to keep record of! The Amanda Foundation team spayed/neutered 74 dogs doing a double intake day and didn’t say no to one pit bull owner who was waiting to get their dog sterilized but didn’t have an appointment. SAAF raised the funds to cover all the microchips which probably totaled close to two hundred more dogs. NKLA had a truck load of dog food which was passed out down to the last bag and Sage Gallegos and her team of groomers were there clipping and cutting and offering advice to every dog owner who stopped by their booth, which was well over 100 dogs. The numbers are always important but it’s always more important to understand that these numbers are owned dog. The dogs are owned by people who often have challenges that are not even on the radar of the people who make the policies and often create the grants and programs to help.

Next month is our last free clinic in Watts, just as we have built a following, just as people have built a level of trust. The question is and then what? Obviously, we need more services and a better way to provide them that will connect to the community which is my dream and my vision that is shared by a growing number of dedicated volunteers who have come out each month to support these Watts clinics.

“Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid it is man made and be removed by the actions of human beings.” Nelson Mandela