INDIO, Calif. -

Pet owners in Indio outraged by pricey fines from the County's Department of Animal Services.

"The day I got it I was very frustrated," said Shawndra Garin of the $819 citation she received.

"At $400 dollars a dog, if you have four dogs that's $1600 for people who bring home $800 a month," said Kim Hardee, founder of Coachella Animal Network and an organizer of Thursday's public forum held at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio to discuss the citations.

Since the animal shelter in Indio closed last summer, residents say county animal control officers have been canvassing neighborhoods, especially those in low-income areas to issue the citations.

"They knock on the doors, ring the doorbells and I heard it's pretty aggressive," Hardee said.

The county requires all animals to be licensed, which means showing proof of vaccination, being micro-chipped and spayed or neutered.  But many people in the city say they didn't know this ordinance existed.

"My message is for the county to let people know ahead of time instead of giving these crazy citations because it's not fair," Garin said.

"The citations are not in Spanish, and a lot of the neighborhoods they're targeting are Hispanic," Hardee said.

No one representing the county attended Thurday's forum, though organizers say they were invited to answer the public's questions.

Pet owners receiving citations are urged to contact the county immediately to learn their options.

"The county says they're flexible, but there's a 20-day limit to where they have to contact the county to get an extension," Hardee said.

Pet owners say not being able to afford these fines shouldn't mean having a part of their family taken away.

"It's like their friend and it's protection when intruders come into their house," Garin said.

"What we're asking is for the citations to go away," Hardee said.

The valley has several organizations that provide low-cost spay and neuter services as well as vaccinations and micro-chipping.  For more information visit:

Loving All Animals

Animal Lovers of Coachella Valley (hosted Thursday's forum)

Animal Samaritans

Bianca Rae Foundation

Coachella Animal Network

Pet owners can also call the Coachella Valley Animal Campus at (760) 343-3644 or they can send an e-mail to shelterinfo@rcdas.org.