Community rallies to support ragtag animal wranglers

When a grassroots volunteer group requested better gear for neighborhood animal rescue, Whidbey Islanders stepped up.

The informal group started a few years ago in the gap between the animal control officers, said coordinator Sommer Bowlin, but they are thankful to the new officers who go way beyond the means of the group.

While the animal control officers operate full-scale investigations, Bowlin’s volunteers assist where they can, working with animal owners to retrieve lost pets.

“We take it very seriously,” Bowlin said. “We take it as serious as a search and rescue for a person, because it’s people’s family.”

On Friday, volunteers were notified that two abandoned German Shepherd puppies were reported to ICOM, volunteer Jackie Lasater wrote in an email. When volunteers found out the puppies were still there at dusk, they set off, knowing the county’s animal control officers were off for the weekend.

By 11 p.m., volunteers had rescued the pups and placed them in foster care, she said.

The animal rescue volunteers overlap greatly with the Animal Advocates of Island County, and they work with the WAIF animal shelter in Coupeville and Oasis for Animals in Langley. Community donations to the Critters Pet Rescue Foundation bought an extra-large folding trap for dogs. In addition, Global Wildlife Resources CEO Mark Johnson connected the group with the Humane Society Wildlife Contact Resolution Program Manager Dave Pauli, who facilitated the donation of three more professional traps.

Island County’s animal control officers don’t even use traps, Bowlin said, likely because, per WAIF and Oasis guidelines, trapping is a short-term solution, and animals should be checked regularly for their welfare, which is a service the rescue volunteers can provide.

Community members also donated a trail camera and funds for a drone to assist in surveillance and recovery efforts.

“Just like a search and rescue for a human being, it takes a team,” she said. “When you see an animal missing for days in maybe 10 acres or more and with all the traffic, (there are many) possibilities that can happen that could take your family member away. At that cost, I think that the community is stocked up and is just wanting to help.”

None of the new gear was cheap, Bowlin said. The group is thankful to the community’s generosity and will ensure it gets put to good use.

“Doing groundwork, just walking miles, looking for these animals, it’s just amazing,” she said. “It’s really impacted my outlook on our community. There’s just so much love.”

Johnson, who has taught humane dog capture and handling around the world, will be facilitating a training course for animal trapping on June 17 at 3 p.m. at WAIF in Coupeville. The presentation will cover non-chemical capturing and handling, box trapping and the use of the Y pole when handling injured dogs. The event is free and open to the public.

Photo provided
Members of the group rescued a couple of scared puppies that were abandoned.

Photo provided Members of the group rescued a couple of scared puppies that were abandoned.