By Tony Aguilar, Coachella Unincorporated
They say that dog is man’s best friend.
While that may be true for some, it is not the case for multitudes of pet owners who have lost their homes to foreclosure and have had to move into apartments.
With an increase of abandoned pets and an influx of pets at animal shelters, one Eastern Coachella Valley woman is keeping busy finding homes and a brighter future for homeless pets.
Christine Madruga, director of The Pet Rescue Center in Coachella, says dogs are being abandoned now more than ever – with many often ending up tied to the trees outside her non-profit rescue shelter.
The Pet Rescue Center was founded in 1998 and serves both Riverside and San Bernardino counties. To date, Madruga and her band of loyal volunteers have rescued and placed over 12,000 animals. Madruga tries to save and take in as many dogs as she can. She goes to the animal shelter in Indio on days when many will be euthanized and tries to bring home as many as she can.
“I want to make a difference, that’s why I started going to the Indio shelter and taking in the animals doomed for the needle,” says Madruga. “I just got so tired of hearing about all the dogs that were being put down at the dog pound.”
Madruga’s love for animals began when she was only 17 and began volunteering at an animal shelter in Thousand Palms. Her love for saving animals has never gone away.
Madruga calls her doorstep a dumping ground for unwelcome dogs. Dogs have been tied to her front gate, cats have been abandoned in boxes on her doorstep during the hot summer months, and countless animals have been tossed over her fence.
The housing slump, says Madruga, has forced many individuals to downgrade to apartments and caused a sharp increase in animals being abandoned because most rentals do not allow pets.
“This year alone, I have had 86 dogs dropped off at my doorstep because of home foreclosure,” she says. “That’s more than double from the 36 I received last year.”
These abandoned pets are not your average mixed-breed mutt often seen digging through alley dumpsters. Madruga says many former homeowners have been forced to give up their pure-breed dogs because they cannot afford to take their pets with them.
But like many other non-profits, Madruga is facing her fair share of hardships. The Pet Rescue Center relies solely on donations and two yearly fundraisers to care for her furry friends. Madruga says that donations are way down; this year, she says she will be lucky to have 150 guests attend her yearly fall fundraiser. Last year, she had 250 guests.
“Some days it’s hard for me, some days I hate the human race for what they have done to these innocent creatures,” she says. “I’d live in the back of my pickup truck before giving up any of my pets, you can ask my husband.”
The Pet Rescue Center is located at 83-496 Ave. 51, in Coachella. For more information, please contact Christine Madruga, (760)398-7772 or email [email protected].