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WOMAN FORCED TO CHOOSE; MOST PETS MUST BE LEFT BEHIND.

Byline: Brooke Olson Daily News Staff Writer

Tyra Tabor moved quickly between the cages at the West Valley Animal Shelter on Thursday, reaching through the bars to stroke her 12 yelping dogs and allowing each to lick her face.

She had loved and raised nearly all of them. But she would only go home with three, leaving the rest to be adopted or euthanized.

Surveying the dogs - who ranged in age and health - the Sylmar resident made one of the most painful decisions in her life.

``I'm going to take the oldest ones - the ones whose health are poorest,'' Tabor said, clutching the cards that would allow her to reclaim her animals.

Tabor's pets had been seized by animal regulation officials because she had too many cats and dogs, according to the law. She pleaded no contest Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge, and Thursday she scrambled to find homes for her beloved creatures.

She had determined that Bertie, a black Labrador, Heidi, a white German shepherd, and an older pit bull all had the least chance of being adopted.

But the decision to leave her other animals behind didn't come easily.

``I feel so guilty,'' the 32-year-old woman said, her voice breaking. ``I need to know where the rest are going to go and what's going to happen to them.''

To city animal regulation workers, Tabor is an animal lover whose heart extended further than city municipal codes would allow.

Well over two years have gone by since Tabor began her rescue work, capturing stray animals and housing them on her half-acre of land.

At one point, she cared for 19 cats and 20 dogs - a far cry from the three cats and three dogs allowed by law.

Although Tabor tried to place the animals in suitable homes, not all were adopted, and some were even returned to her Sylmar residence.

``They're great animals, every single one of them,'' she said. ``I'm just trying to help them out.''

On Dec. 30, all of the animals - which included 10 pot-bellied pigs - were picked up by animal regulation officers and taken to the local shelter.

But Tabor had a plan: Her friends adopted all the animals and then gave most of them back to her - except for the pigs and Trixie, a 2-year-old German shepherd. A local pot-belly pig rescue organization took the swine, and the shelter already had put Trixie to sleep.

``The animal control people told me that there had been a mistake, and Trixie had been put into a group that was euthanized,'' she said.

Animal control officials declined to comment about the circumstances of Trixie's death, except to confirm that the canine had been killed.

That left Tabor with four cats and 12 dogs, still too many by city law. So on Feb. 18, animal control returned, once again placing all of the pets in the shelter.

This time, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office stepped in, charging Tabor with one misdemeanor count of having too many animals, said Assistant City Attorney Don Cocek. She pleaded no contest, was placed on three years' probation, and allowed to keep three dogs and three cats.

``She's promised the judge that she'll keep the numbers down to 3 and 3,'' Cocek said.

But making promises can be more difficult than keeping them. And Thursday, Tabor struggled to find friends to adopt the remaining nine dogs and one cat.

By late afternoon, she had two friends who promised to take the cat and two dogs. That left seven dogs unaccounted for, but animal workers were hopeful that the pets would be adopted.

``We've had people express interest in some of her dogs,'' said Sheryl Perez, an animal care technician at the shelter.

Perez added that the shelter would keep the dogs alive as long as space was available, for about the next 30 days.

``Her heart is in the right place,'' Perez said.

As Tabor crouched to let Shadow, a boxer, lick her face, her lips trembled slightly and she made a determined resolution.

``I'm going to make sure that they go to the best homes possible,'' Tabor said. ``I don't want any of them to think that I'm abandoning them.''

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

PHOTO (1 -- color) Tyra Tabor of Sylmar on Thursday pets one of the 12 dogs that was taken from her by animal regulation officials.

(2) Tyra Tabor visits the cat cages at the West Valley Animal Shelter in Chatsworth on Thursday.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 13, 1998
Words:744
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