LOS ANGELES- With record-breaking temperatures gripping the Southland and most of California, one area woman is doing what she can to help homeless dogs beat the heat. "It's miserable for the animals right now," says Debbie Bloom Feldstein.

With temperatures soaring as high as 110 degrees, Bloom drives to animal shelters every day hoping her ice blocks offer some relief. "Most of the time the dogs lick the ice, and then when it's smaller, they kick it around like a ball. Then, as its melts, it cools off the air around it."

Ice blocks can last for hours but need to be replenished daily. "One every day. It's not a solution; it's a temporary fix."

The heat is a double whammy for many shelters that are overcrowded and forced to euthanize dogs to make more room for incoming animals. "You can't paint a pretty picture right now. Since the pandemic ended, shelters are overcrowded. Most volunteer programs are understaffed. It’s not good."

One of the places where temperatures have reached 110 degrees is at Devore Animal Shelter in San Bernardino County. Last week, a volunteer documented the death of a rabbit that was apparently due to the extreme heat. The woman, who wished to remain unnamed, says conditions there are horrific. 

When we reached out to Devore for comment, they stated: "On September 2, 2022, we tragically lost one rabbit after all efforts to protect it from overheating. We don't know for sure if the rabbit's death was heat-related since rabbits are highly susceptible to various stressors. The animal care professionals will continue to monitor and assess the welfare of the animals at the shelter."

Before the rabbit’s passing, the shelter turned away donations. But that all changed this week when Bloom was able to deliver ice. 

"Victory!" her Instagram page read. "This happened today—ice at Devore. We never thought it would happen. Thanks to a huge team effort, we were able to do an ice drop at a shelter that has never allowed us to deliver before."

How it All Began

Bloom became involved in animal rescue 12 years ago after a career working at an auction house. "When I left the auction world, I needed something to do,” she explains.

She began working with a small rescue organization. Her soft spot was senior dogs. "I love the three-legged dogs—those with special needs, those with one eye—who often get overlooked." 

That's how Bloom says she got involved in learning what the needs of dogs were in shelters. "Over the years of going to the shelters, especially in rural and underserved communities, I learned a lot." Bloom saw that outdoor elements such as extreme heat have a significant impact on the animals.

"I loved my work with the rescues, but I couldn't help but think of the dogs I left behind. So, I began to reach out to the shelters and asked what they needed. We started to build a supply list of things like enrichment toys, beds, blankets. Maybe a blind dog needed a halo [a harness around the head to prevent injury]. Anything that made them happier and in return more adaptable."

Dogs in no-kill shelters can often wait up to two years for a foster home, and Bloom says they especially touch her. "They live through extreme outdoor elements."  

Within the first week of launching her operation, people were asking to help Bloom with her efforts. "Everyone wants to help; it shows there are so many kind people. If you show them how to help and give them a way, people step up."

Bloom says that within the first week, they raised so much money that they were able to buy not only ice but an ice delivery truck.

"We had the ice truck delivering to shelters all over. It was fantastic."

When summer is over and cold weather starts to kick in, she notes, "We change our focus to blankets. Why should a dog have to lie on a cold wet bed? A cozy dog is a happier dog."

"We want to help the animals any way we can. They deserve to be comfortable while they are in shelters waiting to be adopted."

You can follow Bloom's efforts on Instagram @devfeldbloom.