April 1, 2020

Shannon von Roemer: Doggedly devoted to canine rescue

Shannon von Roemer got the call at 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday two years ago: A woman had found a gray-and-white pit bull cowering in the bushes in Inglewood, with its paw and hip crushed and its back torn up after the animal was thrown from and dragged by a car.
 
Von Roemer — the founder of Jimi’s Angels dog rescue and the canine boutique Bark n’ Bitches on Fairfax Avenue — immediately called her veterinary team, which picked up the dog, amputated her gangrene-infested leg and attended to her other severe injuries.
 
Von Roemer then arranged for a dog trainer to work with the terrified canine until she found a suitable home for the animal.
 
Von Roemer, 58, does considerable pro bono work through her charitable group Jimi’s Angels, and her boutique, founded in 2006, is perhaps the first of its kind in Southern California: a humane shop that sells dogs rescued from shelters and from the streets. Von Roemer estimates that she has rescued and adopted out more than 3,500 canines in the past eight years.
 
Recently she’s worked with a black Labrador retriever puppy that was dumped in a trash bag inside a garbage bin with its siblings, their umbilical cords still attached; a pit bull that was left abandoned in a locked apartment without food or water; and three small pooches she took from a fellow rescuer who had become overwhelmed after seven dogs were thrown over her fence in Canoga Park.
 
The next day, the three pooches were happily running around with about 10 other dogs at von Roemer’s shop; on a chartreuse-colored wall hung a Los Angeles city certificate of appreciation commending Bark n’ Bitches as “the exemplary happy solution for those who abhor and seek to eliminate … puppy mill cruelty and want only the best for dogs and people alike.”
 
Von Roemer — who attended a Jewish day school for a time as she was growing up with her grandparents in Buffalo, N.Y. — said she has been a “dog-aholic” since getting her first pooch, a black poodle named Reggie, who “saved” her when she was a child and her divorced young parents were unable to care for her.  
 
It was while doing volunteer work with the human homeless around 1998 that she found and adopted a 3-month-old pit bull, Jimi, who was huddling in a park near Skid Row, and who opened her eyes to the abandoned-dog crisis in Los Angeles. Von Roemer learned that 57,000 stray dogs roam the county each day, that some shelters have up to an 85 percent kill rate, and that puppy-mill breeding dogs are incarcerated in cramped rabbit hutches and then shot, drowned or otherwise killed when they can no longer produce large litters.
 
That knowledge helped spur her to found Jimi’s Angels, as well as to offer rescue dogs for sale at Bark n’ Bitches around 2008, four years before the Los Angeles City Council banned the sale of puppy mill-bred dogs in area pet stores.
 
While other shops can sell purebred puppies for thousands of dollars, von Roemer charges $350 to $450 for such dogs, a fee that includes vet visits, grooming, spay and neuter, a microchip and an online training program, as well as a 10 percent discount for all store products for the lifetime of the animal. Because the rescue dogs cost von Roemer at least $25,000 annually in medical fees alone, she also heavily relies on donations.
 
Prospective owners must fill out a three-page application and conduct an in-depth interview with von Roemer’s staff. “My goal is to find ‘forever’ homes for these abused and neglected animals,” she said.