Nonprofit sees successful year and begins 2022 with record-breaking fundraiser
The dogs and cats at Santa Barbara Humane have reason to bark and meow in excitement.
After all, in 2021, the nonprofit found homes for 1,263 animals, including 827 who were surrendered to Santa Barbara Humane by families who could no longer care for them.
And 2022 started with a one-day, record-breaking fundraiser — the Betty White Challenge. Monday’s virtual event raised $13,365.61 in donations, and with a match by Santa Barbara Humane board members and other community members, the total will exceed $26,000.
In addition, Santa Barbara Humane, which has shelters in Goleta and Santa Maria, had a 96% release rate for its animals, which is above the national average of 89%, Sofia Rodriguez, the nonprofit’s chief philanthropy officer, told the News-Press.
“We take time and patience and invest in each animal and decide how to best safely place them,” Ms. Rodriguez said.
Some animals require a special amount of time such as Beau, a 2-year-old retriever/heeler mix.
Beau came to Santa Barbara Humane after having lived in a garage his entire life without the company of humans or other dogs. When he first came to the shelter, he was hiding in the back of the kennel, growling low out of fear and shaking.
“It took months and months to rehabilitate him,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “He was with us for (six) months before we were able to place him with a family today.”
Kerri Burns, the Santa Barbara Humane CEO, said support from the community makes it possible to help dogs like Beau to thrive and be placed in homes.
Another dog needing help was Canela, a 7-month-old German shepherd who was transferred from another shelter and had a possible fracture in her back leg. X-rays showed she had a complete fracture of her shin bone. Santa Barbara Humane realized she needed a complete amputation in order to be free of pain.
The surgery was successful, and Canela, who adjusted to living on three legs, was adopted.
In 2020, Santa Barbara Humane helped more people by becoming an open admission shelter, Ms. Rodriguez told the News-Press.
That means Santa Barbara Humane accepts all animals, regardless of age, health or circumstances. That provided nearly 900 owners with a safe haven to surrender their pets.
And Santa Barbara Humane sees to animals’ medical needs, Ms. Rodriguez noted.
The nonprofit provided affordable medical services to thousands of pets at its Goleta and Santa Maria veterinary clinics through its TLC Fund. The fund helped 2,300 families in 2021, more than double the 1,000 families assisted in 2020.
Ms. Rodriguez noted many people from South County previously had to drive to Santa Barbara Humane’s Santa Maria shelter for its veterinary clinic. The Goleta shelter’s clinic was only doing spays and neuters.
In July, Santa Barbara Humane added programs to make its Goleta clinic full-service, Ms. Rodriguez said.
Santa Barbara Humane also expanded its training and behavioral programs to include puppy classes and breed-specific classes to help shepherd and husky owners. Those are in addition to the existing Refined Rover, Reserved Rover and Reactive Rover classes.
In fact, thanks to donations, 761 dogs completed the free or low-cost humane behavior training. That includes 65 who were enrolled at a new training facility in Santa Maria.
That was all good news for Santa Barbara Humane.
Then came the legacy of Betty White.
The popular TV icon and animal advocate, who died Dec. 31, was honored by the #BettyWhiteChallenge, a Facebook and Twitter movement that called for people to donate $5 to their favorite shelter or animal rescue on Monday. That day would have been Ms. White’s 100th birthday.
Santa Barbara Humane helped to get the word out and asked people to donate at sbhumane.org.
People responded, with more than $13,000 in donations, which will be doubled by matches from Santa Barbara Humane board members and other community members.
“Community” is the key word.
“We’re dealing with so much with the pandemic and job losses,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “The Betty White Challenge brought people together in one day to do something positive for their own communities.”
Ms. Rodriguez was thrilled with the donations and the increased exposure for Santa Barbara Humane’s website and services.
Besides donating, people could see details for volunteering opportunities, Ms. Rodriguez said. “This has a ripple effect that will go well beyond Jan. 17.”
In addition to raising funds, Santa Barbara Humane used the Betty White Challenge to put the spotlight on animals who need homes. The nonprofit did that by giving each of its animals on Monday that name of one of Ms. White’s characters. She played plenty of them.
For example, dogs were named after several of Ms. White’s sitcom characters: Rose on NBC’s “Golden Girls”; Midge Haber on NBC’s “Suddenly Susan” and Bea Sigurdson on Fox’s “That ’70s Show.” A black cat became Mrs. Nethercott, the librarian Ms. White played on ABC’s “The Middle.”
Animals were also named after her spunky character Elka on TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” and Dr. Shirley Flott, Ms. White’s character on Fox’s “Ally McBeal.”
“I remembered her from ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ ” Ms. Rodriguez said, referring to Ms. White’s portrayal of the man-chasing WJM-TV homemaker, Sue Ann Nivens.
An animal got that name as well.
Ms. White’s popularity never ceased. Fans on social media campaigned to put her on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” and she became the show’s oldest host at age 88.
And Ms. White dedicated her life to animal organizations varying from the American Humane Society to the Morris Animal Foundation. She held several positions, including president, with the latter.
“She was also very clear in being an advocate for animals, not an activist,” Ms. Rodriguez noted. “She did a lot of her giving anonymously.”