HAWTHORNE — Trapping raccoons, opossums and skunks is routine business for animal care officers at the Southern California Humane Society shelter here.
Occasionally, they even come to the rescue of an injured peacock in Palos Verdes Estates.
But the arrival last week of an injured brown-and-white mule from Rancho Palos Verdes was an event.
A group of rabbits was evicted from a small pen to make a place for the mule. A special order was placed for three bales of alfalfa to feed him.
"They don't have many mules on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and picking up one is unusual," said Sgt. Chuck Reed, an investigator for the society.
But if this mule could talk like Francis of 1950s movie fame, he would probably say this pickup was a little too unusual.
It seems that the critter, who stands about as tall as a pony, tried to leap a fence in quest of a mare and suffered a genital injury.
Around the shelter, they're calling him Romeo.
"He had been found by a resident on Palos Verdes Drive East," Reed said. "She kept him in her corral, but called us because she could no longer keep him. He had cut himself three or four days earlier and she had mares in season."
At the shelter, the mule was sutured, and health technician Donna Lee said he is receiving regular medication and should recover completely.
Tried to Locate Owner
Doreen Paramore, who lives with her husband David in Rancho Palos Verdes on a one-acre spread boasting three miniature horses, goats, dogs and chickens, said she had sheltered the mule for four months and tried unsuccessfully to locate his owner by putting up signs along the street and posting notices in local stores.
"He came wearing a red halter and was groomed, so he belonged to somebody," Paramore said.
When the humane society officers arrived, she said, he didn't want to leave: "He was used to the animals."
The humane society in Hawthorne provides animal control services under contract to the South Bay cities of Rancho Palos Verdes, Palos Verdes Estates, Rolling Hills, Torrance, Lomita, Hawthorne, El Segundo and Gardena.
30 to 40 a Day
Cats, dogs, rabbits and other small animals are the most common residents at the shelter, said training officer Christine Whiteside, and the 30 to 40 that arrive each day get there by several routes.
"We pick them up off the streets, police departments call, people catch them and bring them in and owners come in with animals they don't want any more or can't keep," she said.
Whiteside said the shelter has a "high number" of successes in returning strays to their owners, or finding homes for animals. "People really are quite concerned about animals," she said. Others have to be destroyed, however, if they are not picked up.
Skunks, raccoons and opossums are trapped by humane officers--or by residents who are supplied with traps and shown how to use them--when they become pests. They turn up in urban areas as well as on the Peninsula hillsides where they are common.
Whiteside said the society also gets calls from frantic people asking, "Will you come and take this snake out of my back yard, please?"
The society's goal for Romeo, the convalescing mule, is to find him a permanent home.
Reed, who estimated the mule to be 3 years old, said the society will run pictures of him in newspapers in an attempt to find his owner or someone to adopt him. "He's a good-looking little critter and someone should want him," he said.
Doreen Paramore said she likes him well enough but with all her other animals, "I can't afford to feed him."