In the past several months, Idyllwild’s Animal Rescue Friends, commonly known as ARF, has been inundated with found dogs. Unfortunately, that creates problems for ARF as well as the owners of the missing dogs, said Janice Murasko, ARF’s director of operations.

Not only is ARF not an animal shelter, but owners are not taking simple actions to help recover their dogs if they are missing, Murasko said.

“ARF is a rescue, not a shelter,” she said. When dogs are brought to ARF, they must find a foster family for the animal. “Whether it’s two to three days or two to three weeks, we need to find foster family to care for the dog … if there is no foster family available. ARF can keep a found dog for one night only,” Murasko stressed.

“This upsets some people, who ask, ‘What do you do?’” Murasko lamented. But they don’t have the space or staff. Even the cattery is limited to 10 cats.

“We do offer assisted adoptions,” she added. “We publicize the animal’s details and availability. The foster families will bring the dog to ARF on Saturday so possible new owners can see and get to know the animal.”

Another important ARF function is assisting owners to find a lost or missing dog. But this is often confused with the role of Riverside County Animal Control. ARF does not track down and capture stray dogs.

A major problem returning the lost dogs is the failure of owners to have a microchip embedded under the dog’s skin. And even when some do, the information, such as a phone number, is obsolete.

“Since November, ARF helped recover 14 dogs but only one had a current ID and he was returned to his family,” Murasko noted. Using Facebook, the volunteers have found permanent homes for many.

But when ARF cannot find either a permanent or foster home, the animal will be taken to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus. It is a county facility and “no kill,” just as Living Free is. The only exception, according to its website, is that it is “only for animals that are irremediably suffering (as determined by our veterinary staff).”

However, if the owner retrieves the dog from San Jacinto, it could cost several hundred dollars. Riverside County requires almost all dogs to be neutered or spayed. The exceptions are for breeding dogs and animals whose life might be endangered by surgery.

The same ordinance also requires a microchip.

ARF can help with these requirements. Implanting a microchip is only $20 at ARF. Surgery to neuter or spay a cat or dog can be arranged at the Living Free clinics (951-659-4687). While ARF does not directly provide financial assistance, it will help try to obtain assistance from several sources.

Sadie’s Clinic (951-659-1122), which operates through ARF, is available the first Wednesday of each month. Besides check-ups and vaccinations, pet owners can have heartworm and blood tests performed and other issues that do not require surgery or X-rays.

ARF has only five volunteers. Individuals interested in volunteering time may call 951-659-1122 or email Murasko at [email protected].