Kenny and Kenzie, both four-month-old Chihuahuas, were two of five puppies left in a duffel bag in front of a fast food restaurant in Northern California.
The town didn’t have an animal shelter of its own, so animal control called Amy Reed, the organizer of Mostly Mutts Animal Shelter in Camas.
The puppies are waiting to reach the 4-pound mark so they can be spayed and neutered before going to their “forever homes,” Reed said.
Mostly Mutts is a nonprofit, no-kill shelter that hosts anywhere from 10 animals to more than 50, she said.
As of June 22, Reed was responsible for 31 puppies, a pregnant dog with 10 babies, and other adult dogs.
When people were stuck at home when the pandemic first started, Reed received more than 500 calls, messages and emails offering to volunteer at the shelter or to foster an animal. Adoptions also increased during the pandemic, but as people go back to their offices for work, return rates of animals have started to increase.
“Everybody was wanting to adopt and a lot of the other rescues that I’m in touch with were adopting out like crazy and now they’ve got a return rate that’s insane,” Reed said.
When people adopt from Mostly Mutts they sign a contract stating the animal must be returned to Reed if the dog is not the right fit for the family, rather than a different shelter or elsewhere.
“I made sure that the people adopting were home, regardless of COVID,” she said. “I didn’t adopt to anybody that was home because of COVID. I knew the dogs would be back in the shelter.”
Reed has witnessed several owner surrenders recently, but they weren’t directly because of the pandemic, she said.
If dogs are not socialized with other dogs at the park, on walks or on a camping trip, Reed said they can become “dog aggressive.”
“I tell adoptees, you’ve got to socialize these dogs outside of your family and friends,” she said.
Reed said some owners have asked about separation anxiety, which can lead to a pet chewing up items in a house. A trainer who regularly helps at the shelter said anxiety developed because of the pandemic is easier to correct if it’s caught early.
Reed and her mother Linda Strobeck operate the shelter with the help of a few volunteers. When Strobeck goes south for the winter, Reed takes care of the shelter by herself.
Mostly Mutts relies on one main fundraiser to help purchase thousands of dollars worth of dog food and essential medical procedures, like spay and neuters. For the last two years, the fundraisers were canceled because of COVID-19 precautions.
Reed said the shelter typically hosts an event with live music, food and pet-related booths. There is also a raffle with gift baskets donated from local businesses.
“It’s hurt us because that’s been our major fundraiser,” she said.
The $400 adoption fee Mostly Mutts charges barely covers the spay or neuter procedure, vaccines and microchips that all animals receive before being adopted.
“Whatever money comes from an adopted puppy, turns around and goes to the next puppy. Any money that we haven’t had comes out of mine and my mom’s pocket,” Reed said.
Mostly Mutts works with five shelters in the Golden State.
“In California, their euthanization rate is unreal,” Reed said. “It could be a perfectly adoptable dog, but they don’t have the room.”
When Strobeck goes to Mexico during the winter, she brings back as many dogs as she can safely fit in her car.
For 23 years, Reed rescued animals out of her backyard located down a private driveway on the outskirts of Camas. She previously spent three years employed through a shelter in Vancouver. While she was there, many animals were euthanized because of overcrowding, so she set out to create her own no-kill shelter.
Mostly Mutts officially became a nonprofit four years ago when Reed used inheritance money from her late father, with the help of her mother, to construct a big enough building to house plenty of animals, as well as an office space.
Mostly Mutts accepts donations online at mostlymuttsres