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Volunteer Returns as Veterinarian Also Makes the List

A puppy saved from a cruel act in late May topped the annual Riverside County Animal Services stories-of-the-year list for 2022.

Animal Services Officer Matthew Perez responded to a county sheriff’s dispatcher call on May 23 about a puppy with an arrow through its neck. The Chihuahua was saved and adopted about one month later, after its recovery. The rescue and life-saving efforts topped the stories of 2022 for the department.

Harrowing photos of Arrow Pup:

Riverside County’s Top 10 stories is an annual tradition where employees are asked to list their favorite tales of the year. Other stories that resonated with staff included: No. 2 – a former volunteer returning to Animal Services to become a staff veterinarian; No. 3 – a cat that was reunited with its rightful owner – all the way out in Knoxville, Tenn.; and No. 4 – the start of a new era when Erin Gettis was named the agency’s new director.

2022 was a year that once again challenged the department to provide emergency response and care for residents’ pets impacted by a wildfire. This time it was the Fairview Fire near Hemet in September. A strange tale happened in early October when Officer Will Luna responded to a coyote discovered in a school bathroom. And a big cockfighting operation in Jurupa Valley was shut down, leaving officers with a long task of dealing with roughly 100 birds. This one generated a lot of media coverage because such a big bird bust had not happened in recent years.

The full Top 10 stories list will be posted on Animal Services’ website and the social platforms.

“It’s very nice to look back at our successes and the hard work these caring individuals provide to other people’s pets, especially in emergency situations,” Director Erin Gettis said. “I am very hopeful that 2023 will bring more successes, more uplifting stories and, ultimately, reach our goal of seeing far fewer pets end up in our shelters.”

Staffers voted the hiring of Gettis as one of the significant stories of the year. She came on board in March and landed at No. 4 on the Top 10 list.

“I don’t know how I outranked a coyote-in-a-school-bathroom incident,” joked Gettis. “But I think it is very touching and illustrates why I feel so fortunate to lead this team of dedicated county employees.”

News release announcing Erin Gettis as director: us/newsroom/news-releases/506-department-s-new-director-begins-today

It was the story of “Arrow Pup” that was the clear No. 1 choice for staffers. Officer Perez retrieved the dog from a Desert Hot Springs neighborhood and rushed it to his colleague, Registered Veterinary Technician Ivan Herrera, at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms. Staff veterinarian Dr. Luis Lizarraga provided guidance to Herrera over the phone – and the arrow was safely removed.

Despite what could have been a fatal act committed against the female Chihuahua, the 11-month-old pooch is living the good life now with La Quinta resident Lyn Thornton. Ms. Thornton continues to send heartwarming photos to the staffers at the Thousand Palms shelter to keep them all updated about her pet’s fun travels and wardrobe changes. She named the dog Tiffany Grace. Although no one was found responsible for the arrow incident, the cruelty case remains an open investigation.

Heartwarming adoption of Arrow Pup:

The second-favorite story for Animal Services employees featured a former volunteer – Itzel Vizcarra – returning from studying veterinary medicine abroad to join the team as a staff veterinarian. Dr. Vizcarra studied in Australia and worked with wombats, kangaroos and Tasmanian devils. She returned to California, passed her veterinary examination and started as a staff veterinarian in the early part of 2022.

Video featuring Dr. Itzel Vizcarra:

As for that wayward cat and its trip to Tennessee: an employee paid for a February flight and reunited the owners – former Riverside residents – with Ebi, their beloved cat that went missing shortly before the couple moved to the South roughly eight years ago.

Ebi the Cat – Missing Eight Years:


One more: tennessee-microchip-ebi/51-a9ac84fa-da2a-4f48-8e3f-380c61809ae3

Rounding out the Top 10 stories:

No. 5, Fairview Fire Response:

No. 6, Coyote in School Bathroom:

No. 7, Big Bird Bust:

No. 8, One Home, 72 dogs:

No. 9, Fire Erupts Adjacent to Jurupa Valley shelter:

No. 10, Officers Assist man with too many pets:

Contact a Shelter

Western Riverside: (951) 358-7387 (PETS)
San Jacinto: (951) 358-7387
Coachella Valley: (760) 343-3644
Blythe: (760) 921-7857
Toll Free: 1-888-636-7387 (PETS)

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