Odessa Gunn demands change at Sonoma County animal shelter

  • Tom Lee of Santa Rosa, who lost his 10-year-old dog earlier that day, finds Rusty, a white cocker spaniel mix at the Sonoma County Animal Shelter.

A high-profile animal welfare advocate is demanding immediate changes at Sonoma County’s animal shelter after she said she recorded triple-digit temperatures inside the dog kennels.

Odessa Gunn’s findings, which the county disputes, threaten to spark a major kerfuffle and already appear to have chilled relations between the region’s two main animal-welfare agencies.

Gunn, wife of former cycling star Levi Leipheimer, said she was stunned by how hot it was inside the Century Court shelter northwest of Santa Rosa after she went there in July with a friend who was adopting a dog.

“I was literally sweating through my clothes,” Gunn said this week.

After she and an assistant recorded temperatures as high as 102 degrees inside the facility, Gunn began lobbying county officials for emergency measures, including installing evaporative coolers or misters to bring the temperature down. But Gunn said she was rebuffed, prompting her to take her concerns public. She’s threatening to mount a social media campaign to put pressure on the county with the help of her famous cycling husband.

“I’m being vocal because I’m shocked and I believe the dogs are suffering at our county shelter,” Gunn said Friday.

But Brigid Wasson, director of Sonoma County Animal Services, disputed that animals are in any danger at the shelter.

“Absolutely the dogs are safe and not in danger, although I don’t dispute they could be more comfortable,” she said.

Wasson also disputed the accuracy of Gunn’s temperature readings.

“I walk out in the kennels two or three times a day. I would know if it was 102 (degrees),” she said.

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