Saving the ‘Furbabies’: Raising Money to License the Pets in the Palco Marsh Homeless Encampment
According to Eureka Police Department spokesperson Brittany Powell said the EPD does not want to take any animals to the Humboldt County Animal Shelter, “That is why we have contacted various groups asking for them to offer solutions or temporary shelter. Ultimately, we will only take animals from someone who is under arrest.”
Nonetheless, the worry about losing their pets “freaked people out,” said homeless activist Debra Carey. “[The homeless] thought people were after their furbabies.”
Jaymeey Hatfield, an animal and human rights activist with the Other Side of the Fence nonprofit, worries that this policy will overload the local animal shelter and cause animals already in the shelter to be euthanized to make room for the influx of homeless pets. Her organization has mobilized to stop this. They are raising funds to provide shots and licensing fees for the approximately 70 dogs in the homeless encampment. Already many animals have received rabies shots and some have been licensed.
“We stepped in because we feel the dogs are now being used as a war tactic by the EPD,” explained Hatfield. She believes the City wants to use fear of losing their pets to force the homeless to leave the area. “The animals do not need to be brought into their war.”
The fundraising page states, “If the City wants to wage war against the homeless, can we please leave the innocent lives of the dogs out of it? This is clearly class discrimination. The police are not threatening people who are not experiencing homelessness and no one is going door to door threatening euthanasia of pets.”But, legally, homeless activist Debra Carey acknowledges, the City is within its rights to demand the animals be licensed and have a rabies shot. ” Legally no dogs can be without their shots,” she explained. “We are on a hot trail to get those dogs shots, licensed and legal,” she said. “We are going to try and do them all.”
When asked about the possibility of some of the animals being adopted, Carey said, “If people want to adopt [their pets] out that’s fine but I want it to be their decision.” She doesn’t believe many of the homeless will want to give up their animals. “People were saying, ‘This is all I have,'” Carey explained. “We have disabled people that use their pets for many reasons.”
Hatfield agrees, “I work with the homeless a lot. I know the animals are their whole life….They are the protectors. If you are sleeping outside and [your dog] barks that few seconds warning can be lifesaving.”
After the licensing and shots have been taken care of, the Other Side of the Fence plans to keep records to help the animal owners always have access to proof of their dog’s legal status. “We’re keeping a file on each animal,” Carey said. “Jaymeey is shrinking and laminating [the records] for [the homeless] to keep it in their wallet. [Law enforcement] can call and we can say, ‘Yep, we have the file.'”
“Those animals are private property to their owners,” said Carey. “If they have their shots and license they can’t be removed from the owners.”
Hatfield said her organization is working closely with homeless pet owners. “I really want to empower people and have them do as much of the process as possible but I am prepared to stand beside them through the whole process,” she explained.
Donations to help the effort can be made at Save the Palco Marsh.