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Everything You Want to Know About Animals : Making A Difference in Your Community

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Homeless peacocks, abandoned chickens, questions about snakes. These are the problems that Louisa Jacobs and other members of the Pet Assistance Foundation deal with every day.

“We get every kind of call there is,” said Jacobs, chairwoman of the group’s San Fernando Valley branch.

But although the Pet Assistance Foundation was created in 1955 for one purpose--promoting the spaying and neutering of cats and dogs--Jacobs and other volunteers feel obligated to answer any animal-related question left on their voice mail.

“If we don’t help them, they’ll never have an answer,” said Jacobs, who got involved with the Pet Assistance Foundation because of a lifelong interest in saving animals.

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“I’ve been on an awful lot of rooftops,” said Jacobs, who also humanely traps feral cats--domestic cats that have turned wild. “I’ve been under houses and I’ve been a lot of places I probably should not have been.”

But those wishing to work for the foundation don’t have to have Jacobs’ history of roof-climbing to qualify as a volunteer. What they need is a phone, a love of animals and an ability to listen with an open mind.

Each day a different volunteer is assigned to check voice-mail messages, do the research and call the questioner back with the information or a referral number for a location where a pet can be spayed or neutered. Every call must be returned the same day, and if the caller cannot be reached, the volunteer keeps trying the next day to reach him or her.

Each volunteer is given a manual and two hours of training. Each also listens to about a dozen sample phone calls before they start.

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But the work is critical, said Jacobs, because of the staggering numbers of animals that are killed in shelters every year. According to figures from the foundation, more than 45,000 cats and dogs were killed in Los Angeles city animal shelters in the 1993-94 fiscal year. More than 55,000 cats and dogs were put to death in county shelters during the same period.

That leaves a dog’s chances of being adopted from a shelter only one in eight, Jacobs said. A cat has a one-in-11 chance of being adopted once it reaches a shelter.

But it is the statistics on the animals’ births--2,916 every hour in the United States--that are eye-popping for Jacobs. A dog can have a litter twice a year and a cat can have as many as three or four litters a year, she said.

To volunteer for the Pet Assistance Foundation, call its voice mail at (818) 709-0900 and ask for Peggy or Louisa.

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The Bridge Focus COSTARS child abuse prevention program has openings for volunteers beginning Jan. 19 for 10 weeks. Volunteers work one evening a week from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Trained volunteers will work with the COSTARS curriculum to lead discussion groups aimed at exploring feelings about oneself, school and family, as well as developing social skills, drug-abuse awareness and self-esteem. Volunteers also work with children in arts and crafts, storytelling and playtime. Spanish-speaking volunteers are also needed. The program is held at Valerio Street Elementary School in Van Nuys. For more information, call Shelli Duby at (818) 563-5509.


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