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Helps Up to 100 Strays : Pet Group Opens Shelter in Sun Valley

Times Staff Writer

Over the years, Annette Petelle has adopted more than 6,000 dogs and cats.

Petelle, a former volunteer at a Los Angeles animal shelter, helped found a private, nonprofit pet shelter in 1980 because she could no longer stand to see homeless dogs and cats put to death by the city. For the past 8 years, she and other members of Pet Rescue Assn. have played surrogate parents to thousands of canine and feline “orphans” for as long as it took to find permanent homes for them.

On Saturday, Pet Rescue Assn. opened a shelter in an old house on Norris Avenue in Sun Valley, where it will continue to house up to 100 animals until homes can be found. The shelter had been located in a rented facility in Burbank.

Surrounded by junkyards, a private shelter solely for Doberman pinschers and several kennels, the $150,000 facility is run by volunteers who Petelle says are “totally insane” about four-legged creatures.

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“The only animal we’ve had to put to sleep this whole time was a vicious chow chow who was really tearing up our kennel help,” said Petelle, 48, of Van Nuys. “It was so hard for us to do that it took us 3 months to finally go ahead with it.”

By contrast, city-run shelters only guarantee to keep for 1 hour pets brought in by owners who are no longer able to keep them, said Janice Porter, an animal control officer for West Valley Animal Care and Control Center. Strays are held for 3 to 7 days, depending on their age, and then put up for adoption for a 24-hour period, she said.

“We exist primarily to reunite strays with owners,” Porter said.

Pet Rescue Assn., on the other hand, spends a great deal of time trying to place as many pets as possible in new homes. In addition, it has given a home to nine cats and three dogs who are too wild or unattractive to draw new owners, Petelle said.

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Prospective owners, who learn of the organization primarily through classified ads in newspapers, are carefully screened to ensure that animals will receive proper care, Petelle said. For instance, they must sign contracts guaranteeing that cats will be kept indoors, she said. All animals are neutered or spayed before leaving the shelter.

While animals reside at the private shelter, they get more than cursory care from volunteers.

“I can relate to those guys back there in the cages,” said Tom Moriarty, referring to the caged dogs. Dressed Saturday in a Santa Claus costume with a dog’s mask to celebrate the opening of the new shelter, Moriarty, 32, of Van Nuys, climbed inside one of the pens to cuddle with a group of small dogs.

The shelter was made possible by Woodie Lou Wallace of Hollywood, who bequeathed her estate to Pet Rescue Assn., Petelle said. Wallace died in 1985, she said.

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