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Pet Project a Real Treat for Animal Shelter

The Burbank Animal Shelter and Leadership Burbank are giving pets a new leash on life.

As a city-owned haven for lost and homeless pets, the shelter is always striving to improve conditions for its temporary residents, says spokeswoman Lissette Rojo, and with the help of Leadership Burbank’s “Cause for Paws” efforts, the shelter is looking forward to major renovations, including the creation of a dog run and third adoption area.

“The shelter has been providing animal control services since the 1950s, and desperately needs these changes,” said Leadership Burbank in a statement to the Leader.

Leadership Burbank is a community-based organization that offers leadership development programs for Burbankers.

This year’s Leadership Burbank class has homed in on the shelter to highlight its contributions to the community and bolster its operations with much-needed improvements to its open spaces for pets.

“At the end of the day this is about improvement, to make sure that these animals, before they find their forever homes, have a good, happy, healthy and positive experience while at the shelter,” said Leadership Burbank Board member Jamie Keyser Thomas.

A pit bull dog awaiting adoption poses for photos in his kennel at the Burbank Animal Shelter Wednesday.

Through the class’s fundraising efforts, the shelter could see a brand-new dog run, which will be used to get the canines out of their kennels to work out pent-up energy. In addition, an adoption and socializing space will be added, increasing the number of adoption appointments the shelter can handle and adding an additional outdoor area for pets to roam and socialize with people and pets alike.

The need for more social spaces for the animals started with the pandemic, Rojo told the Leader, and has ramped up as the population of homeless pets increases each year.

“During the pandemic, when volunteers were unable to come here, we only usually have two kennel attendants per day, so it was hard for them to tend to the social and exercise needs of all the animals,” she said.

That’s because the shelter’s priority is always going to be cleaning and medicating incoming animals to protect the population from disease. The shelter focuses first on spaying, neutering, vaccinations and any kind of medical needs the animals require.

“So, socializing and exercising kind of took the backseat at that time, I would say, but we all started pitching in,” said Rojo.

For now, the shelter relies on its devoted volunteers, who take dogs on walks and have them participate in a canine playgroup so they can socialize and learn more about the animals’ personalities so they can market the pets for adoptions.

And despite the shelter’s ongoing efforts to control the homeless pet population through spaying and neutering, the number keeps growing, according to Rojo.

A cat rests atop his cat tree kennel at the Burbank Animal Shelter.

“I don’t know what’s driving this increase of animals, but one of our goals is to make veterinary medicine more affordable and accessible to the community, so that money is never a barrier for somebody who maybe is not able to keep their pet or keep them healthy,” said Rojo.

That’s where the shelter’s affordable vaccine clinic program comes into the picture. Pet owners can schedule $16 vaccinations and affordable microchips for their pets, an effort that Rojo says will help keep lost animals from staying at the shelter for long periods.

“We’re very excited to be able to offer this resource to the community, and hopefully we’ll be able to increase efforts in the future by offering spay and neuter voucher program or something of that sort,” she said.

The Wednesday vaccine clinic was fully booked and saw the shelter’s veterinarian warmly administer vaccines and chips to nervous pets.

“This one gets a second hot dog ‘cause he was a such a good boy,” shouted one vet tech after vaccinating a well-behaved husky puppy.

The shelter relies on empathetic staff who can assess a pet’s needs on the spot, said Rojo.

“What really makes us special is we’re all very dedicated to our mission. Maybe the fact that we’re a smaller shelter makes it a little bit more familiar. Quaint. And it’s also the community that we’re in. We have so much support from city of Burbank residents,” said Rojo. “It’s always a different day. Never a dull moment. And I think we’ve built an amazing shelter here.”

Make a donation to the Cause for Paws online here: leadershipburbank.org/acauseforpaws.

A puppy awaits his vaccinations from the Burbank Animal Shelter’s staff veterinarian at the shelter’s vaccine clinic event Wednesday.

First published in the February 10 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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