Riverside City Council Member Mike Gardner in August presented the city’s first proclamation which recognizes August 20 as International Homeless Animals Day. In so doing, Gardner, on behalf of Mayor William ‘Rusty’ Bailey, the city council, and the city of Riverside, expressed thanks and appreciation to Foster Army Animal Rescue, co-founder/president Twelve Camacho and co-founder Kimberlee Powell, as well as to other animal advocacy organizations working to save homeless animals and end pet overpopulation in the city.
FAAR had the opportunity to talk with Council Member Gardner about pet overpopulation and his thoughts on what’s being done in Riverside to help homeless animals.
“I’ve had a long-time interest in homeless animals,” Gardner said in pointing out the issue as an important one. “When I was in the third grade a homeless dog showed up at our school. He followed me home…under my coat. I had that dog for 10 years, until he died.”
A professed animal lover, Gardner grew up with dogs, mainly boxers, and has had dogs and a few cats throughout his life, except for his time in college. Today, he and his wife have two dogs which his wife bought when she learned of a breeder who was giving up the business and taking all remaining dogs to the shelter.
“My real concern is the number of animals in shelters and rescues,” he said. “Eighty percent of the cats in shelters don’t leave alive, but 80 percent of the dogs do. People drop kittens at shelters that can’t survive on their own and unless there are fosters to take them…”
On the topic of Riverside becoming a no-kill city, Gardner stated, “There’s no such thing as a no-kill shelter. The concept of completely no kill just isn’t accurate. There are animals that are too sick or aggressive. We very much would like to be a city that doesn’t put animals down due to lack of space.”
To help alleviate the problem of pet overpopulation, Gardner said he’s pushing for more low-cost spay/neuter services.
“I’m on the board of ASK (Animal Solutions Konnection, a non-profit foundation that supports Riverside County Dept. of Animal Services). I would like to see them raise more money for free spay/neuter and for more vet staff to do more surgeries.”
What does he think about educating the public, especially the younger generation about spay/neuter and pet overpopulation? “We’re getting there, but we have a long way to go.”
Gardner labeled not having one’s pets spayed/neutered as a mindset, adding, “Some people think altering a male dog is a poor thing to do, and a lot of people want kittens.”
He also would like to see stores not be allowed to sell animals and mentioned Barkworks in the Galleria at Tyler mall as an example of a store that sells dogs from outside the region.
Gardner said the city isn’t doing a great deal regarding the no-kill issue, but was quick to point out some actions the city and individuals in city government are taking.
“The county and city have some mandatory regulations for spay/neuter,” he noted. “I’m interested in making it more mandatory.”
The city of Riverside pays animal control to canvass neighborhoods looking for dogs, but as Gardner points out, cats aren’t licensed in Riverside, something he’d like to see changed.
“It’s controversial and difficult to deal with,” he admitted.
Gardner said the city is in the process of determining regulations for kennel license requirements. Currently, Riverside allows a residence to have a maximum of 4 dogs and 9 cats, not counting puppies and kittens, before a license is required.
Gardner pointed out that on an individual basis, City Manager John Russo is in a band that has played benefit concerts for non-profit animal rescues. And he, Gardner, organizes an annual Home for the Holidays adoption event held in December at city hall which features animals awaiting homes at the Riverside County Dept. of Animal Services shelter in Jurupa Valley.
He also wants people to be aware that the city has a sponsorship program for various activities and animal rescue organizations have received grants through that program.
Riverside is not directly doing anything with regard to TNR (trap-neuter-return) of community cats, Gardner noted. However, he mentioned that his assistant, Lynn Anderson, is on the board of TNR Riverside and does trapping.
“Trap-neuter-return raises issues with the public. They don’t know what they’re dealing with, the cats can still be a problem if returned to where they’ve been living, and not everyone wants cats living around them.”
In summary, Gardner emphasized, “We continue to need to do the right thing, to treat and place animals, but the key is to stop producing animals. So spay/neuter is a higher priority from a planning perspective.”
When asked how he feels about FAAR’s mission to save at-risk animals from the animal shelter and elsewhere, Gardner replied, “I think it is a real service to the community as a whole. Kimberlee and Twelve are passionate and nice people.”
“Council Member Gardner has been helping us since day one and his encouragement and support have been invaluable,” Twelve Camacho praises in return. “He is always available and has helped us, from understanding permits and animal laws to opportunities to showcase our lifesaving efforts at events. Council Member Gardner has been a true public servant and friend to Foster Army Animal Rescue and an ally to our furry friends.”