On May 22, CARE4Paws hosted its Happy Tails fundraiser at the Music Academy of the West, netting about $120,000 for its critically important work, including providing free and low-cost veterinary care and free pet food and supplies to those in need. About 120 supporters gathered on the terrace of the Marilyn Horne Main House for a lovely reception and then were seated inside for the program. Others opted to watch the live-streamed program from home.
Executive Director Isabelle Gullo welcomed guests and shared how the pandemic significantly increased the demand for its assistance, such that it now serves more than 20,000 families per year, compared to about 7,000 pre-pandemic. She explained how its Mobile Pet Wellness Clinic ensures that neither cost nor transportation are barriers to pets getting spayed/neutered or receiving medical care. Last year, the mobile clinic served more than 10,000 dogs and cats, including performing 2,000+ spay/neuter surgeries.
The mobile clinic has weekly sessions in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Lompoc and, more recently, in Arroyo Grande too. While the medical care the clinic offers is not full service because of its mobile nature, it provides quite a range of care, including vaccinations, treating wounds and infections, doing dental cleanings and extractions, and performing a range of surgeries. When the pet’s needs are beyond its capacity, it makes a referral to a partner vet clinic and provides a financial contribution toward the care.
The pandemic also led to a spike in demand for CARE4Paws’ program providing free pet food — in the first two years it distributed about four tons each week, mostly through its mobile clinic and community events. Now demand has eased, but it is still distributing one to two tons per week through its Pet Resource Centers, located throughout the county, and through the other channels. Gullo hopes the lower level of demand continues because the pet food program diverts funds from its mobile clinic and other services, for which demand is still high.
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CARE4Paws continues its weekly outreach to unhoused community members in Alameda Park, where it provides pet food and supplies. Once a month, it collaborates with A’s Mobile Grooming to provide baths and nail trims for dogs, typically 6 to 12 each time, for which owners express much gratitude. A similar collaboration with Doggie Parlour provides the same services in Santa Maria each month.
Through its Safe Haven Domestic Violence Assistance Program, C.A.R.E.4Paws arranges for immediate, anonymous foster care for pets of domestic violence victims. Gullo explained how when survivors escape, they are often forced to leave pets behind, which leads to more suffering for the pets. Referrals to the program come from Domestic Violence Solutions and government agencies. Since its launch in 2020, the program has helped 30 domestic violence survivors, in some cases for more than a year because of the difficulties survivors face, including finding pet-friendly housing. Foster families are being sought for this program.
High school freshman Ava Vasquez was presented with a Pet Hero Award for her initiative organizing a pet food drive at Vieja Valley Elementary School, which led to 400+ pounds of pet food being donated. Vasquez previously had volunteered at CARE4Paws’ mobile clinic handing out food, where she saw how appreciative the recipient families were. She shared how she enjoyed working with CARE4Paws, can’t wait to do more, and hopes that others will be inspired to help out.
Community Programs Coordinator Wendy Domanski shared her excitement for the Youth Pet Portraits program, in which youth at the United Boys and Girls Clubs’ Lompoc Club make pet portraits, based on a photo, for a donation. According to Domanski, the program inspires creativity in kids and gives them joy and pride, while raising funds for CARE4Paws and honoring a pet. A fun video showed the great excitement and talent of these youth artists.
For more info, go to care4paws.org.