One of the nation’s first no-kill animal shelters celebrated its 20th anniversary just two years ago. Animal Shelter Assistance Program, aka ASAP, is a nonprofit organization that cares for an average of 1,000 cats and kittens annually, who are awaiting adoption at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter. ASAP was founded in 1989 by a group of volunteers who assumed responsibility for the care of all adoptable cats taken in by the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter. Within 15 months of being established, ASAP became the first organization within a municipal shelter to stop killing adoptable cats for the purpose of population control.
This summer, three volunteers celebrated their 20th year of volunteering at ASAP. Bette Stuebing, Sara Schmidhauser, and Sharon Metsch have all put in two decades of service to ASAP. I spoke with Sharon Metsch to see what has kept her going all these years.
What made you start volunteering at ASAP?
A friend and I volunteered with a dog group — taking our obedience-trained dogs (trained for show trials) to rest homes, schools, etc. She said that she would not be able to continue because she was trying to start a rescue group for the cats at the County Animal Shelter. ASAP was about one year old at that point. I thought that if I helped her at the shelter, she would find the time to continue bringing her two cute dogs to our little showings. I got hooked on helping to develop the unique program — a union of private (nonprofit) and public (a municipal shelter) for the rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing of as many cats as possible.
Had you volunteered with animals or anywhere else previously before coming to ASAP?
How has ASAP changed since you first started volunteering there?
One tiny, tiny room with about 20 cages, all of which were old and awful. Some were so small a big cat couldn’t even sit up straight in it. Some were large enough to put a golden retriever in. We had little money for medications, very little vet time, and not enough volunteers or fosters. Money to advertise our cats was nonexistent. It was tough work for a ragged few for many years.
Do you foster cats or kittens? If so, how many do you think you’ve fostered over the past 20 years?
I can no longer foster because my five resident cats now refuse to have them. Over the years, I have fostered hundreds of kittens and moms with kittens. I’d say at least 700 or more. Easily up to 100 a season, and there were many seasons and many years.
Have you adopted any cats since you’ve been volunteering at ASAP?
Oh yeah! Fosters. All but one of my five resident cats, and that one came from another local rescue group. And, I will add, I placed many with friends and friends of my friends. Yes, they are still friends.
Have there been any special cats that you’ve connected with over the years?
I always had favorites at the shelter. Ones that I would work with were especially hard to place in a good home. I wouldn’t show them to people whom I thought weren’t good enough. And, I’d work like crazy to convince those who I perceived as good pet owners to take my best boys (usually they were boys). Right now I’m concerned for Big Boy. What a great cat if someone would just take a bit of extra time to consider him! (For information on Sharon’s favorite cat Big Boy, visit http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/20037277.)
What is the best thing about volunteering at ASAP?
Knowing that so many focused and loving volunteers will give any cat that reaches ASAP the best possible chance, the best medical care, and the best attention. And I will add the worst thing: I hate seeing cats in cages, but know that having made it to ASAP, that is the best we can do for them at this point in their life. And our shelter is light and airy and cheerful and clean. I have always hated to see kitten season start because adopters overlook so many fantastic adults. They sit and sit and sit, waiting for the babies to leave first.
If you’re interesting in volunteering at ASAP, they welcome new volunteers who can devote a few hours a week to the care and comfort of the deserving shelter felines while they wait for a forever home. There are two main requirements for volunteering at ASAP.
Age Requirement: Volunteers must be at least 12 years of age to be eligible for their Volunteer Program. A parent/adult partner volunteer must accompany any volunteer under the age of 16 at all times during their time at the shelter.
Time Requirement: Volunteers are needed every day of the year at ASAP between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Volunteers are asked to schedule a minimum of two hours per week at the shelter for at least a six-month period. For more information on volunteering, visit http://www.asapcats.org/volunteer.html
If you are unable to volunteer, but would still like to help out shelter cats, fostering is a great option. During the early spring through late fall, ASAP has the greatest need for volunteers willing to open their hearts and homes and temporarily provide care and comfort to young orphaned kittens or stray queens and their litters. ASAP has operated a successful foster program since 1992. Hundreds of kittens are fostered each year along with at least a dozen queens and their litters. Fostering kittens can be a wonderful way to teach children how to handle animals and can also help a family decide whether they are ready to take on the commitment of adopting a pet. For more information on fostering, visit http://www.asapcats.org/volunteer/fostering.html.
Each cat and kitten that comes into ASAP is given a full medical evaluation before being placed up for adoption. Included in the medical evaluation is spay or neuter surgery, flea treatment, vaccinations, deworming, testing for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, and a full blood panel evaluation for cats over 10.
If you are thinking of adopting a cat or kitten, stop by the facility at 5473 Overpass Road, off Patterson Avenue during regular business hours (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; closed Sundays). For more information and to see some of their adoptable cats, you can visit ASAP on the Web at http://www.asapcats.org/adoptions/search-for-a-pet.html.
Locally owned Hollister Brew Company, in the Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta, is having a Benefit Days for K-9 PALS to help care for the homeless and abandoned dogs at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter on Wednesday, August 10, 2011.
Visit Hollister Brew Company anytime during the event and enjoy their famous quality food, full bar, and good prices.
Hollister Brew Company will donate 20 percent of your bill (before tax/tip) to K-9 PALS to raise money for veterinary care and assistance for the homeless dogs at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter.
Remember to tell all your friends, family, and other dog welfare supporters!
Adoptable Pet of the Week