Edmonton dog lovers line up to adopt pups rescued in California

A crowd of eager dog lovers lined up outside the local humane society office early Sunday for a chance to take home one of the hard-luck pups that arrived on a private jet from southern California.

EDMONTON — A crowd of eager dog lovers lined up outside the local humane society office early Sunday for a chance to take home one of the hard-luck pups that arrived on a private jet from southern California.

Janet Folk, the Edmonton businesswoman behind the so-called “Freedom Flights”, says the dogs would probably have been euthanized due to overcrowding at animal shelters in California.

“They’re so sweet. They’ve been abandoned. They’ve been abused. Yet all they do is lick your hand and they sit there and they trust you,” said Folk, who has organized five rescue flights since 2009.

Experts say pop culture is to blame for the overpopulation of smaller dogs in California, with fans imitating Chihuahua-toting celebrities like Paris Hilton.

Close to 400 dogs have been brought to Edmonton, where the local humane society has a shortage of smaller breeds.

The most recent flight, which arrived on Friday, carried 60 dogs from Riverside and Long Beach, Calif.

“It was actually one of our better flights because there was no barking, and that was the first time I’ve experienced that,” said Folk, who has set up a website called orangedog.ca to help raise money for the flights.

“I swear to God, they know once we load them on, they’re going to be safe. People hear me say that and they think I’m weird but that’s OK.”

Shawna Randolph, a spokeswoman for the Edmonton Humane Society, said the idea originated with a volunteer who brought dogs back from California herself on commercial flights.

Only a few could be brought back at a time, Randolph said, but that changed when Folk stepped up.

“The adoption levels for all our animals spike when these California dogs come in,” Randolph said.

Sometimes people arrive looking to adopt one of the California dogs, but they end up leaving with a different animal, more suited to them, she said.

Folk hopes to organize similar flights to Calgary, or to U.S. destinations where shelters may be short of small dogs.

“I’d fly the big dogs, too, if I could fit them on the plane.”