Los Angeles Times - 03.04.2020

(C. Jardin) #1



Emily Bates needed
some sort of salve for her
growing sense of dread.
Her solution: adopting a
terrier mix named Frankie.
Heidi Torres needed a co-
ronavirus distraction for her
three children — bored, wor-
ried and home from school.
Her answer: fostering
Benny, a spaniel mix who’d
just been pummeled by a car.
Liz Bridges, far from her
Pasadena home, just needed
a pal.
So, she took home a 4-
week-old stray puppy who
was being kept alive —
barely — by monks on the
streets of Talpe, a tiny beach
town in southern Sri Lanka.
Across Los Angeles and
around the world, in fretful
and uncertain times, it
sometimes seems as though
every cat and mutt is now a
therapy pet.
“Dogs are such healers,”
said Namiko Ishii-Dan-
ganan, who just fostered a
blue-nose pit bull named
Sky. “She’s a great distrac-
tion ... the biggest love bug
Shelter and rescue or-
ganizations nationwide are
reporting unprecedented
interest in fostering and
adopting as people who are
sheltering in place turn to
kittens and puppies, dogs
and cats, and here and there
a rabbit, for comfort during
the coronavirus crisis.
Amid the lockdown, a
restless and hard-headed
nation has discovered that
what it really needs right
now is a snuggle and a slurp.
“We are being inundated
with offers to foster kittens
and are also seeing a sharp
increase of interest in adopt-
ing,” said Ben Lehrer, presi-
dent of Kitten Rescue,which
has been placing stray kit-
tens and cats across Los An-
geles for 25 years.
Kristi Labrenz Galvan,
who runs the CatCafe
Lounge, a shop full of avail-
able cats and coffee (cur-
rently open only for adop-
tion services) in West Los
Angeles, reports a similar
surge. “We’ve had so many
adoptions.... It’s been so
Jack Hagerman, vice
president at the Pasadena
Humane Society, reports a
“massive uptick” of interest,
adding that within a week or
so of his group sending out
its first plea for foster volun-
teers March 12, “we’ve had
1,451 people come forward
wishing to foster a shelter
pet,” with all 124 animals
that were available currently
placed. “Wow. Just ... wow.”
Thinking of checking out
one of the locations run
by Los Angeles Animal
Services,one of the largest

municipal shelter systems in
the country? “If people want
a small dog, we have only a
few at this time,” said Agnes
Sibal-von Debschitz, a rep-
resentative for the agency.
A new addition to a
household can ease anxiety,
so people can focus on some-
thing other than the pan-
demic. Nikki Weingarten, a
La Cañada Flintridge family
and marriage therapist, says
a new pet “represents hope.”
They can be especially help-
ful for people who live alone,
and when it comes to fam-
ilies with kids, the message
is, “We’re getting this pet, life
goes on, everything will work
out OK.”
Fostering was already on
the rise across the country,
and experts say that about
half of all fostered pets end
up as permanent residents
of their foster homes. But
the thoroughness of some
animal fostering protocols
(and adoption procedures
as well) inspired now-famil-
iar complaints from pro-
spective pet parents, who
suggested it was easier to
qualify for a mortgage than
to adopt a cat or dog.
Staffers at shelters and
rescue groups insist the red
tape has been cut in recent
years. And in the last few
weeks, with interest sky-
rocketing, the procedures
have been further stream-
lined as organizations
scramble to place pets in
homes, knowing they would
soon have to get by with
only skeleton staffs. Groups
increasingly turned to
online applications and
“I was shocked at how
quickly it happened,” Bates
says of her adoption through
Little Angels, a popular res-
cue group. “I think it was a
little bit different because

everyone was working from
“We’ve rescued but we’ve
never fostered,” said Torres,
who took Benny after he’d
been struck by a car and suf-
fered a broken pelvis. “We
got the call, and in a couple of
hours we had him.”
At first, they had to carry
Benny everywhere, but
lately, he’s getting around on
his own as he heals.
“I kept telling the kids
what a good example he is,”
said Torres, who lives in La
Cañada Flintridge and is
mother to Graysen, 12,
Jakob, 16, and Maddie, 19. “I
feel like he’s taught us
“And he’s just so sweet.”
The stories of fostering
and adoptions come from
near and far. Bridges
adopted the dog she named
Ruby from the streets of tiny
Talpe, Sri Lanka, where the
rules of the lockdown al-
lowed the beach town’s resi-
dents out to shop only every
three days. She was in Talpe
with her boyfriend as they
waited to launch a back-
packing business.
“I couldn’t imagine this
without her,” Bridges said in
an email, adding that Ruby
was initially covered with
fleas and ticks. “She’s keep-
ing me mentally and phys-
ically occupied through
everything, and I couldn’t be
happier that she was
dropped into our hands.”
In Chicago, dental stu-
dent Jenna Kirk took advan-
tage of an extended spring
break to bring home Honey,
a 5-pound poodle pup with
eyes like a Christmas toy.
“I have all day to spend
with her now,” said Kirk, 29.
“I can adapt to her schedule
and she can adapt to mine.”
For Sandra Sempowicz,
who recently lost her hus-

band of 36 years, having her
recently adopted dog, Bob
Dylan, around to comfort
her during the quarantine
has been a salvation.
“One day, we did five
walks,” said Sempowicz,
who also lives in Chicago.
The booming interest in
pets could hardly come at a
better time; March is typi-
cally kitty and puppy sea-
son, when the rate of births
among stray animals ex-
plodes. Experts say the sea-
son is running a little late
this year, although they ad-
mit their ability to get a
count has been hindered by
the pandemic.
The later the season
starts, the greater the boom,
Hagerman said, which could
set the stage for an even
more robust — and troubled
—season a year from now,
particularly for kittens. Res-
cue operations such as Kit-
ten Rescue are also con-
cerned about the long-term
implications of the econo-
mic downturn and how it will
affect the donations and
grants that sustain them.
With so many organiza-
tions involved, the pro-
cedure for moving an animal
into a home varies, but typi-
cally, the flow runs this way:
Shelters, often public fa-
cilities, take in strays and
abandoned pets. In some
municipalities, animals may
eventually be euthanized,
but the city of Los Angeles
has a no-kill policy, though
even that means some ani-
mals often need to be put
Animals that aren’t
adopted directly from a shel-
ter are sometimes taken by
rescue organizations, often
small private nonprofits,
that place them in the
homes of volunteers, or
those who have been cleared

to foster.
The process of fostering
or adoption doesn’t always
go smoothly. Shelters and
rescue groups work to help
prospective owners under-
stand that pets require more
than “just food and a litter
“A lot of people don’t
know, they think it’s easy,”
said Cristin Tamburo Coll, a
feline behavior consultant
who works with CatCafe and
the Stray Cat Alliance. “Just
like humans, cats are all very
different. They need toys,
and something to scratch.
Believe it or not, they get
Kitty Block, who heads
the Humane Society of the
United States, urges those
considering a foster pet to
ask about a facility’s policy
on veterinary care. Many
shelters and rescues provide
it free of charge, but the de-
tails should be confirmed
before committing. Many
also provide food, treats
and even toys and loaner
crates to foster families,
Block said, but that varies
and should also be dis-
cussed ahead of time.
And experts want to re-
mind anyone looking at a pet
that even though we are
staying home, if restrictions
ease in the future and people
return to work and school,
animals will continue to
need attention and care.
For now, new pet parents
say they are grateful for the
companionship and all the
intangibles that a dog or cat
brings to their lives.
“I just think of that
phrase: ‘A house is not a
home without a dog,’ ” says
Ishii-Danganan, who found
Sky through the Watts Proj-
ect, a busy South Los Ange-
les rescue group. “I’m glad to
foster and save a life.”

Man’s best friends during crisis

SKY, a blue-nose pit bull, is being fostered by Namiko Ishii-Danganan, center, and her daughters Ami Ishii,
left, and Miya Ishii of Downey. “Dogs are such healers,” Ishii-Danganan said. “She’s a great distraction.”

Carolyn ColeLos Angeles Times

As pandemic keeps

many home, interest

in adopting and

fostering pets soars.

By Chris Erskine

The FBI is examining
whether a man accused of
intentionally derailing a
freight train near the Navy
hospital ship Mercy, which is
docked in San Pedro to help
with the coronavirus crisis,
had any ties to extremist
groups, and agents are dig-
ging into his social media
Eduardo Moreno, 44, of
San Pedro was charged with
deliberately wrecking a train
during the incident Tues-
day, which led to a derail-
ment and fuel leak, accord-
ing to the charges.
“Moreno is the only per-
son charged in the case.
While the government has
made no allegations linking
Moreno to an extremist
ideology, our investigation is
continuing,” the FBI said in
a statement to The Times.
Prosecutors allege that
Moreno derailed the train
and deliberately crashed
through barriers designed
to stop engines before grind-
ing to a halt 250 yards from
the Mercy.
Prosecutors said Moreno
admitted during an inter-
view that he had run the
train beyond the track be-
cause he believed that the
Mercy was part of suspicious
activities involving the
Moreno, according to
multiple sources, believed
the Mercy was part of a
government-controlled con-
spiracy designed to divide
and control the people. The
sources spoke on the condi-
tion of anonymity because
they were not authorized
to comment publicly on the
Moreno was an employee
of Pacific Harbor Line,
which operates inside the
Los Angeles and Long
Beach port complex. He had
been a locomotive engineer
for several years.
According to an affidavit,
he said he thought his act
would bring media attention
and “people could see for
themselves,” referring to the
Moreno appeared
Wednesday in court, and his
bond hearing was delayed
until Friday.
According to sources fa-
miliar with the investiga-
tion, officials have found he
was a member of a Facebook
group interested in train


ties are

probed in



FBI looks for such

links after train wreck

near the ship Mercy.

By Richard Winton

They were looking for a
man named Wayne who
was old and frail and prob-
ably hadn’t eaten in a while,
putting him in the most
vulnerable category for
contracting the novel
Homeless outreach
workers Christian Riehl and
John Cudal had last seen
Wayne in his dilapidated RV,
which was parked at 135th
Street and Broadway in un-
incorporated Willowbrook.
Riehl had a motel
voucher for Wayne and
hoped he could persuade
him to surrender his RV and
go indoors. But when they
got to the corner, his RV
wasn’t there. Across the
street was another RV, and
a disheveled man named
Louie answered the door.
“We’ve been sent by L.A.
County to make sure that
everybody over 65 has a
place to stay,” Cudal told
With the number of co-
ronavirus cases expected to
surgein the coming weeks,
Riehl and Cudal were doing
some things differently.
They wore face coverings —
a ski mask for Riehl and neck
gaiter for Cudal. They spritz-
ed their clothes and shoes
with alcohol after each con-

versation with a homeless
person, and searched out
seniors and others who are
medically fragile. But their
mission had not really
As outreach workers for
St. Joseph Center, Cudal
and Riehl exclusively work
with homeless people who
live in vehicles, so they con-
tinued to introduce them-
selves to the hundreds of RV
dwellers in South Los Ange-
les and help them get serv-
ices and housing.
While occupied RVs have
become common around the
county, this stretch of
Broadway, where the street
is wide and the overnight
parking prohibition is not

being enforced, has become
a linear RV village.
Riehl and Cudal monitor
the more than 200 vehicles
parked there. Some are
mobile; many are broken
down. Some look decent;
others are patched with
cardboard or tarps. A few
are owned by people who
choose to live on the cheap.
Most belong to people who
have been beaten down by
life, including squatters and
tenants in an RV rental
black market.
The Vehicle Homeless
Outreach Program, funded
by Supervisor Mark Ridley-
Thomas’ discretionary ac-
count, was founded in 2014 to
deal with the problem. The

current number of RVs and
cars is down from the more
than 300 when the program
began, Riehl said. Those
who get housing can keep
their vehicles if there is park-
ing available and if the vehi-
cles are still operational. The
program pays to tow and
dismantle the cars and RVs
that no longer run, so they
don’t remain on the streets.
The path to success is sel-
dom direct, and for every
step forward there is often a
step back. Of the 129 people
who have qualified for hous-
ing, 79 have moved in, four of
them this year, according to
reports filed with the Los
Angeles County Board of
Louie was new to the
neighborhood, he told Riehl
and Cudal. He said he had
been living in his RV in Lomi-
ta for five years until he was
asked to move along.
“At least I had a place to
be,” he said. “Now they don’t
want me.”
Louie was ambivalent
about getting services.
“I just want to make sure
you’re good and take care of
yourself,” Cudal told him. “If
you’ve got that, you got it.”
Riehl and Cudal moved
to opposite sides of the
street. Cudal, working his
way through a thicket of
dated electronics, vehicle
parts and broken applianc-

es, asked at each door if
anyone inside was 65 or old-
er, or ill.
It’s outreach workers
who serve as the eyes and
ears on the streets, a role
that has become even more
important as local and state
officials have ordered social
distancing to slow the pan-
demic. These workers play
the crucial role of connect-
ing homeless people with a
rapidly growing list of serv-
ices and resources, includ-
ing emergency shelters, ho-
tel and motel rooms, and
quarantine facilities.
If Cudal, for example, did
come across someone living
in an RV with flu-like symp-
toms, a possible sign of
COVID-19, he would have to
arrange for a medical team
to take that person to one of
the quarantine facilities
being hastily set up across
L.A. County.
Homeless people who are
at high risk for the virus but
aren’t exhibiting any symp-
toms go to motels or shel-
ters, and it’s outreach work-
ers who must call an Uber or
a cab to get them there.
Riehl hoped to do that for
Wayne, now that he had
found him. Riehl made a call,
trying to first line up some
food, but the cupboards
were bare of donations.
“Not even Top Ramen?”
Riehl asked in frustration.

He knew where he could
scrounge up some food. He
said he’d return with it later
and try to get Wayne into a
motel. But an emergency
suddenly needed the out-
reach workers’ attention. A
sheriff ’s deputy had tipped
them off about a grand-
mother, three daughters
and two granddaughters
who were living in an RV a
few miles away on Bandera
Street without plumbing or
Interviewing the women,
Riehl and Cudal determined
that neither the grandmoth-
er or mother was 65 or older,
nor did either have a high-
risk health condition.
That ruled out Riehl’s
first option of moving the
family into one of the quar-
antine trailers at Dockweiler
State Beach. Instead, he
tried to line up a motel — not
a cinch for a family of six.
At the end of the day,
Riehl and Cudal had mixed
success in their efforts to
help those whom they had
Wayne took the food but
declined the voucher for the
motel. An older couple who
were in line to get an apart-
ment had a motel room wait-
ing to tide them over but
hadn’t checked in yet. And,
after securing the help of a
housing specialist, the fam-
ily of six moved into a motel.

Outreach workers in masks keep the safety net intact

ST. JOSEPH CENTER’SJohn Cudal wears a neck
gaiter over his face during homeless outreach work.

Brian van der BrugLos Angeles Times

By Doug Smith

Free download pdf