Though I am not formally affiliated with the organization, I feel compelled to speak up on behalf of the operators of Noah’s Friends Animal Sanctuary in Orange Cove.
Last week, more than 130 animals were removed from their facility by the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Many of the dogs were found in terrible condition, and the media is reporting that some of them had no food or water in their cages.
The owners of the facility are being demonized and attacked for their cruelty in keeping so many animals in such horror.
What I feel compelled to say is that Noah’s was not an abuse-and-neglect factory. It had been operating as a registered nonprofit animal rescue since at least 2001 without issue or complaint. The owners had worked incredibly hard to save likely thousands of dogs in that time.
I know, because two of Noah’s Friends are watching me type right now. The owners of the sanctuary are kind, gentle, responsible people who dedicated their lives to saving dogs.
Clearly, something went horribly wrong there in the past few weeks or months. Clearly, many of Noah’s dogs were suffering and needed to be rescued from the rescuers. Clearly, the owners should have reached out for help when things got out of control. Because clearly, the situation was out of control.
On the other hand, there was at least one recent post on Noah’s Facebook page that did explicitly ask for help. And among their 1,122 followers – myself included – there were nine “likes” and two comments wishing them luck. Not a single person stepped up to say they could or would help.
I know the main operator had been ill recently: Maybe that’s what happened. I know they had to shut down adoption activities some months ago due to family illness. Maybe that’s what started it.
Or maybe there were just too many homeless and abandoned dogs and not enough people spaying and neutering and keeping the “dogs are for life” promise. Perhaps there are too many backyard breeders looking for a quick buck or too many people who treat dogs as throw-aways when they become inconvenient.
Maybe, if more people did the right thing, Noah’s would not have ended up overwhelmed and doing the wrong thing, too.
For 15 years or more, Noah’s cared deeply for dogs, and cared for them far better than many public shelters. Thousands of dogs lived out their lives happy and healthy at the sanctuary or in their adoptive homes because of the hard work of Noah’s.
It is a tremendous shame that these dogs – likely the last that will ever live at Noah’s – were suffering. It is perhaps a bigger shame that so many years of successful rescue work and so many lives saved and bettered might be forgotten in the rush to judgment we’re seeing now.
Yes, the condition these dogs were found in was horrible. But please try not to demonize those who tried and succeeded for so many years because they failed at the end.
Joy Dockter is a resident of Fresno.