EPHRATA, Wash. — Annette Hernandez is looking forward to Lost and Found Pets of Grant County’s first formal fundraiser.

It has been a long time coming.

Devoted to caring for dogs, Hernandez has spent a lot of her spare time helping find stray and lost dogs in and around Ephrata, picking them up, caring for them, and trying to find their owners.

“I’ve always loved animals, for as long as I can remember,” Hernandez, 59, said.

In 2014, she and several friends and coworkers at the Grant County Public Utility District informally started Lost and Found Pets of Grant County, Hernandez explained, to better respond to reports of stray animals, especially along Dodson Road south of Ephrata.

While Lost and Found Pets of Grant County works with Adams County Pet Rescue and the Quincy Animal Shelter, and has even gone as far as Moses Lake to rescue a dog, Hernandez said the group tends to stay focused on Ephrata and Soap Lake because neither city’s police departments have an animal control officer.

“There’s a need for it here. There’s not enough animal control in the area,” she said. “Quincy and Moses Lake have animal officers, but not Ephrata.”

After more than five years of working informally, Hernandez said Lost and Found Pets of Grant County is finally official.

“We got all the paperwork done, and got our nonprofit status in March,” she said. “We’re going to have our first fundraiser, a yard sale, July 11 at Beck and Call Pet Care in Ephrata.”

Hernandez said they have other fundraisers in mind, but right now, the state’s current COVID-19 restrictions make anything bigger than a yard sale — which can be held outdoors — difficult if not impossible.

“We’re waiting for the whole COVID thing to be over,” she said.

Rescuing involves going out, often in the evening after work, and tracking an animal down and sometimes even trapping it, she said. Dogs are then “scanned” to see if they’ve got an identification chip, and if they don’t (and no other kind of ID tag), Lost and Found Pets reports the animal as found to both local law enforcement as well as on social media, Hernandez said.

“We try to get the word out,” she said. “We have 7,000 followers on Facebook, and a lot of times we are successful.”

“We want to get them home within 24 or 48 hours,” Hernandez added.

If after 30 days the owners don’t come forward, or can’t be found, Hernandez said the animals are vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and then adopted out to “forever homes.”

“Beck and Call Pet Care houses the big dogs, we have a couple of foster families care for the smaller dogs, and I take care of the little dogs,” she said.

She also hopes eventually to rescue cats, though right now Lost and Found Pets “is still trying to get fully functional with dogs,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez also said the group is looking for whatever help people can give.

“People can join our Facebook page, they can foster, donate to our yard sale, volunteer or watch out for animals,” she said.

Wandering the roads of Grant County in response to calls of missing or stray animals could be a full time job, Hernandez said, and an emotional one as well. But it’s work worth doing, she said, and work that needs to be done.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “But it doesn’t feel like work.”

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