Recipient of pet food at weekly Foodbank of S.B. County event at Guadalupe Senior Center. | Credit: Courtesy

C.A.R.E.4Paws, a small nonprofit serving Santa Barbara County, has been the savior for many pets during the pandemic, providing food, veterinary care, and more. Since March 2020, C.A.R.E.4Paws has been distributing four tons of food per week countywide through Foodbank of Santa Barbara County events and other events, its Pet Resource Centers and Mobile Pet Wellness Clinic, and directly to seniors and low-income individuals at home. Absent an increase in donations, this $10,000-per-week effort may be scaled back, though demand has not slackened.

Dog owners served at Mobile Clinic in Santa Maria | Credit: Courtesy

There has also been a spike in demand for veterinary care due to COVID-related economic hardship, as well as last year’s temporary closure of services provided by the Santa Barbara Humane Society (which now includes the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society) and S.B. County Animal Services (SBCAS) and veterinary offices’ scaled-back operations.

Last year, C.A.R.E.4Paws increased its Mobile Clinic operations to 190 days at various locations in the county, enabling it to increase its services by more than 50 percent and plans even more clinic days this year. Low-income owners receive free spay/neuter services and low-cost or free veterinary care, including wellness exams, vaccines, and wound care. Last year, it provided more than 2,000 spay/neuter surgeries and provided medical care to more than 1,800 dogs and cats. 

The increased food distribution and veterinary care caused its expenses to double in 2020, to $1 million, and its reach to triple, to more than 20,000 pet owners.

C.A.R.E.4Paws continues its outreach and assistance program for homeless pet owners, providing food, other supplies, and veterinary care every Thursday at Alameda Park as part of a multi-agency initiative. Once a month, it even provides pet grooming. The program serves at least a dozen grateful owners each week.

C.A.R.E.4Paws and SBCAS co-host a Pet Resource Center at SBCAS’s Santa Maria facility, where owners can pick up food and supplies and sign up for the Mobile Clinic. Similar centers open next month at SBCAS’s Santa Barbara and Lompoc facilities. Several other centers at nonprofits have temporarily closed because of the pandemic.

Through the Safe Haven Domestic Violence Assistance Program, C.A.R.E.4Paws arranges for immediate, anonymous foster care for pets of domestic violence victims. Referrals come from Domestic Violence Solutions and government agencies. Since launching in early 2020, the program has already fostered a few dozen dogs and cats and is seeking foster families to meet the anticipated continuing demand.

C.A.R.E.4Paws Cofounder and Executive Director Isabelle Gullo with Cofounder and Community Medicine & Spay/Neuter Outreach Manager Carlos Abitia | Credit: David Donaldson

In its Paws Up for Pets program, C.A.R.E.4Paws teaches kids about compassionate pet care, safety around animals, and dog training. Even during COVID, it has operated at United Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA sites in South County and mid-county locations. According to Isabelle Gullo, C.A.R.E.4Paws executive director and cofounder, the program seeks to inspire compassion and accountability for animals and empathy in our community as a whole. A goal is to have children learn to speak up against abuse, bullying, and discrimination. “Children who learn the importance of empathy at an early age,” according to Gullo, “grow up to be more caring adults.” 

In the aftermath of the Texas storm and resulting overcrowded shelters, C.A.R.E.4Paws collaborated with SBCAS to bring 22 shelter dogs to Santa Barbara, many of whom had been living in shelters for more than a year. C.A.R.E.4Paws Board President Chris Harris and Community Programs Coordinator Wendy Domanski picked up the dogs in Tucson, Arizona, where they had spent the night, and drove them to Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara County Animal Care Foundation funded the transportation.

With tough economic times persisting, Gullo sees the high demand for its services continuing this year and is committed to continuing the same level of support because, she explained, “we know that the provision of pet food, spays/neuters, medical treatment, foster care, and other services can mean the difference between a pet being able to stay in his home or ending up homeless.” This commitment means raising $1 million this year.

On April 10-11, C.A.R.E.4Paws will host drive through pet food drives countywide. Locations will post soon at For more info about C.A.R.E.4Paws or to donate, go to


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