Producer Jon Hoffman is a man of action and a resident of Hollywood Hills, so hearing that he built a coyote-proof dog-and-cat run onto his home was not surprising. Curious to see it, I paid him a visit and was impressed by his ingenuity and abilities. Also a successful inventor (of the DogCatcher pet car seat) and entrepreneur (he even owned an island!), Hoffman is one of the creators of the reality show Bar Rescue. Hoffman greeted me at the door with his dog, Beaux, snuggled in his arm. The duo remained inseparable during the interview, even as he prepared a snack in the kitchen. Now that’s what I call a bond!
Marina Anderson for Dogster: How did you find Beaux and why did you start carrying him around all the time?
Jon Hoffman: I adopted Beaux six years ago. He’s a rescue with a bad history of abuse and neglect. He was actually found living on the street. His tough early life created a few bad habits. One of these bad habits was biting anybody who came close to him. He also has terrible separation anxiety.
You have many animals but you also foster. How long have you been doing that?
I’m fairly new to fostering, but this is something my girlfriend, Jill, has been doing for many years. I’m on the board of a small dog rescue in Thousand Oaks called Zoe’s Friends, which has the mission of rescuing small dogs from high-kill shelters. We’ve saved hundreds of dogs over the last few years.
Our alpha dog is a female Pit Bull named Georgia. She’s 10. Her big sister, Tulsa, is a Pit mix who is about 15. She’s the grande dame of the family.
Next is Noodles, who is probably a Toy Fox Terrier about two years old. Jill was driving in downtown L.A. and saw her running in the streets. Jill always stops when she sees a loose dog, and when she did, Noodles jumped into her car. She was home. She was quite young and had spay sutures in her belly, which were overgrown. She was chipped, but the phone number was disconnected.
Our current foster, Jack, is a male Jack Russell mix around two who is doing his best to convince us that he is here to stay. Francis is a 16-year-old female cat, which Jill has had forever, and Nicky is a younger female cat who adopted us two years ago. And then there’s Beaux.
You have a pool and waterfall. Perfect for attracting wildlife from the hills. Have you encountered any?
We haven’t seen anything, but we have certainly seen coyotes in the street in front of our house, and there have been verified sightings of mountain lions close by. I used to live in Malibu, and I have seen every kind of predator you can imagine — coyotes, mountain lions, rattlesnakes — so the general rule of thumb is to never let your pet out of your sight, even when your yard is fully fenced. It’s not always fun to get out of bed at three in the morning when your pet has to go potty, but all it takes is one lapse in vigilance for things to go very bad.
Your coyote-proof dog-and-cat run is fabulous! I’ve seen a coyote jump an eight-foot fence and dig under fences as well.
There are things you can do — for example, putting rollers on top — but at some point, the fence gets so big it’s ridiculous. We never let the animals in the yard unattended, so we weren’t trying to make the yard coyote-proof. Our goal was to have a smaller outdoor area, which was completely predator-proof so all of the animals could go outside anytime.
We did that by building a cage on one side of the house and cutting out a door in a convenient location so people and animals can go in and out. I welded together panels of 1-inch-square steel tubing with welded steel wire mesh — basically the same stuff they use to build lion cages — and anchored everything to the house on one side to a tall concrete wall on the other side and to the concrete slab at the bottom. I also built roof panels so nothing can come over the top.
If there hadn’t been concrete, I would have either poured a slab or buried the fence at least two feet below grade — coyotes can dig as well as they can climb. I put doors at both ends so we have access to and from either the front or backyard, and finally I cut a door through the side of the house into Jill’s office. The doors have push-button locks on them so you don’t have to remember to bring a key — and since the whole thing is very secure, we can actually leave the house door open all the time.
It was originally intended as a safe cat patio, so Jill calls it the “catio.” We’ve done all sorts of things to make it cozy and comfy in there for animals and humans — we’ve put a sun shade over most of the roof to keep it cool and provide shade, while there’s still a place for lounging in the sun. We’ve filled it with potted plants and put down artificial grass on a lot of the floor. And we have a small koi pond. One of the side benefits is it keeps other animals and predatory birds like herons out; we lost all of our koi at our old house to herons and raccoons.
What suggestions would you give our readers how to protect their own pets against coyotes?
The cheapest and best protection is vigilance. You just cannot leave small pets unattended for even one minute in an environment where predators might be able to reach them. If that means they have to stay inside, so be it.
If you want to give your animals a bit more freedom to wander in the yard, you need to design a protective structure, which can withstand the strength, weight, persistence, and ferocity of likely challengers. If it’s a coyote or a mountain lion — these can be 80-pound animals with very sharp claws and teeth, powerful jaws, and tremendous strength — using chicken wire or hardware cloth is not a deterrent; they will go right through it.
A conventional fence or wall will do nothing to protect your animals. I’ve always found that doing things properly has many rewards — it works properly, lasts a long time, and looks great — and most of all you have peace of mind knowing your pets will be safe. And admit it — you’ve been looking for an excuse to learn how to weld anyhow, right?
Thanks for chatting with Dogster, Jon! Now, here are more tips for dealing with predators:
Read more from Marina Anderson:
About Marina Anderson: Marina is an established actress, writer, best-selling author (David Carradine, The Eye Of My Tornado), jewelry designer (The Flying Goddess) and publicist (The Media Hound PR) for clients such as Ed Begley Jr. and music icon Alan Parsons . She is also a personal manager and career and spiritual consultant. Marina’s passion is helping animal rescue organizations. Look for her next book, The Adventures Of Lulu The Collie, which stars her beloved dog, Lulu, daughter to Lassie VIII, and follow her on Facebook.