Partner Shelter Spotlight: The Dogs of Del Norte

Justin Riggs, Del Norte Animal Control Shelter Manager, plays with Mandy in the dog run made possible by community donations and volunteers.

Justin Riggs, Del Norte Animal Control Shelter Manager, plays with Mandy in the dog run made possible by community donations and volunteers.

Through our Pit Stop & Adopt program, Born Again Pit Bull Rescue partners with small and rural shelters across the Pacific Northwest, including the Del Norte Animal Control shelter, to provide food, supplies, pre and post adoption assistance and volunteer support. Like many municipal shelters and rural rescues, the staff and volunteers at the Del Norte shelter struggle with low budgets and high occupancy, and often times they look to their community to help meet the needs of the animals in their care. Starting in mid-November and running through the end of the year, BAPBR is coordinating a food drive on behalf of the dogs of Del Norte, asking our fans and community to help us raise $1,300 to purchase a four month supply of high-quality food for the shelter. All donations are tax deductable and we welcome any contributions; learn more, track our progress and donate at our food drive page.

The Del Norte County Animal Control shelter is located in Crescent City, California—a small coastal town on the Oregon/California border. Essentially a city dog pound, the shelter is operated by the Animal Control Division of the County of Del Norte. The department spreads their limited budget over several functions, including operating the shelter, maintaining dog license and vaccination records, impounding stray dogs and large animals, investigating dog bites and quarantining biting dogs, investigating loose or nuisance large animal complaints, enforcing other state laws and regulations concerning animal care and keep, investigating violations of humane laws and picking up injured domestic animals. When fully staffed, the department relies on two full time and two part time employees to carry out all of these functions, allowing very little time or budget for anything beyond basic daily care of the animals in the shelter. What small budget is allocated to the shelter must cover operation costs and employee salaries, ground and building maintenance, veterinary care, spay and neuter services, food, toys and supplies.

One of Del Norte County Animal Control shelter's several high quality 10’x10’ kennels donated by volunteers.

One of Del Norte County Animal Control shelter's several high quality 10’x10’ kennels donated by volunteers.

Faced with small budgets and ever-expanding needs, the staff and volunteers at Del Norte get creative to rescue and re-home as many dogs as possible and often struggle to support large dog populations with few resources. The shelter's primary building, which is aging and facing serious maintenance issues, houses 24 small (3x6 foot) concrete kennels plus an additional 8 kennels for isolation and quarantine. The kennels were originally built to house dogs for only a few days while they were in a mandatory holding period, but when the shelter went no-kill in 2009 the kennels became long term residences for the area’s homeless dogs. The shelter has been over capacity for the past two years (they're housing 28 dogs currently along with another 9 in foster care) and relies heavily on a supportive community that provides donations and volunteers to address their most urgent needs. Thanks to contributions from the community, the shelter was able to add several outdoor kennels this year, providing a larger space with fresh air for dogs cooped up in the cramped indoor kennels. Donations also helped the shelter build a dog run to provide a place for exercise and play.

Del Norte Animal Control Shelter volunteer Sandy loves on Gracie, an abused and neglected dog in their care.

Del Norte Animal Control Shelter volunteer Sandy loves on Gracie, an abused and neglected dog in their care.

The incredible shelter volunteers dedicate their free time (weekends and holidays included) to make life a little better for neglected, abandoned, and sometimes severely abused dogs. According to Justin Riggs, Shelter Manager (he also serves as the Agricultural/Weights and Measures Inspector for the county), volunteers are critical to the operation of the shelter and the health and welfare of the animals it houses. "Our volunteers are the single most important factor in the dogs’ quality of life", says Justin. "We rely on about a dozen regular volunteers and a dozen less regular volunteers to keep our residents healthy and happy. Our volunteers advocate for the shelter, fundraise and some even sponsor a spay/neuter each month. They show up rain or shine and provide emergency foster when necessary. I can speak for all of my staff in saying that we never cease to be amazed by the commitment of the volunteers". Sandy, a volunteer who walks dogs five days a week at the shelter, spoke with a tear in her eye about how rewarding her work is and how deeply she cares for these dogs that deserve a better life.

Many of the shelter's regular volunteers pose in front of a beautiful mural added to the side of their kennel building in 2015. The mural was paid for by donations and honors the volunteers and some of the dogs that have been adopted from the shelter.

Many of the shelter's regular volunteers pose in front of a beautiful mural added to the side of their kennel building in 2015. The mural was paid for by donations and honors the volunteers and some of the dogs that have been adopted from the shelter.

Del Norte County is small and rural—the current population is still under 30,000 people and nearly 22% of that population lives below the poverty line, a number that is almost double the national average of 14%. While community support of the shelter is one of the most effective ways Justin and his team can get the extra care and enrichment for the dogs they desperately need, they are challenged by the area's economic depression and struggle to find quality adopters.

Small and rural shelters like Del Norte need exposure and support from a broader audience of animal lovers. They welcome visitors and are committed to placing the right dogs with the right family. If you're considering adoption, the folks at Del Norte have a wide variety of wonderful dogs looking for homes to call their own and they're ready to help match you to the right one. Have specific questions about the dogs at the shelter or the adoption process? Contact them directly by phone (707) 464-7235 or email delnortedogs@gmail.com. You can also follow them on Facebook.