Santa Maria Animal Shelter welcomes new pet resource center for owners and animals alike
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
Anyone who has ever owned a pet knows that relationship is something special. A scratch at your door when you wake up or a simple tail wag at the end of the day makes life unimaginable without your companion. For some, however, that’s a reality they must face.
Luckily, animal and human welfare agencies are here to keep families together when they need each other most.
C.A.R.E.4Paws and Santa Barbara County Animal Services launched their newest Pet Resource Center at the Santa Maria Animal Shelter on Wednesday. In partnership with Good Samaritan Shelter and Northern Santa Barbara County United Way’s Home for Good program, the agencies hope to provide resources for pets and pet owners alike in need.
“Keeping people and their pets together is of the utmost importance to us and sometimes all it takes is a bit of support during a financial hardship,” Santa Barbara County Animal Services Director Tara Miller said in a news release. “No one should ever have to choose between feeding their pets and paying a bill.”
Santa Maria Animal Shelter’s new addition is one of 11 centers located throughout the county. At any of these sites, pet owners can pick up dog and cat food, as well as other supplies, sign up for affordable veterinary care and even access wellness services for themselves.
While pet resource centers have populated South County for a few years now, C.A.R.E4Paws recently started expanding the program in November.
“(United Way) connected us with some agencies we had never worked with before,” said Isabelle Gullo, C.A.R.E.4Paws Director and Co-Founder. “Now our combined services are accessible countywide.”
Up until now, all resource centers had been located at human welfare agencies like the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission or Bridge House in Lompoc. To Ms. Gullo, bringing these services to all kinds of shelters only widens their reach.
“Someone might come into an animal shelter expecting to relinquish their pet because they can’t provide for their pet,” said Ms. Gullo. “With a resource center, the staff can say they have resources for them and their pets, so no one has to give anything up.”
Putting accessibility above all else, the agencies involved have ensured not a single barrier will keep families from staying together. There are no parameters, financial or otherwise, prioritizing one person over another. At the resource centers, every visitor has access to a helping hand, whatever that means.
“For those going through a tough time, they may not want to admit what’s going on,” said Ms. Gullo. “We believe the people who really need help will come, and that’s what we really want.”
For pet owners, each human agency offers a different service around the county. Some might provide counseling or access to health care, like People Helping People in Santa Ynez, or low-income housing to people as well as pets, like PATH in Santa Barbara.
With the addition of C.A.R.E.4Paws’s pet supplies, these sites can be especially valuable to those that are homeless.
“By engaging individuals around their concern for their pet, the homelessness emergency response system can leverage the human-animal bond to provide life-saving services to people and their pets,” United Way’s Home for Good Director Emily Allen said in a news release.
“To serve people experiencing homelessness and their animals, we know we must build relationships with animal welfare organizations.”
Operating hand in hand with these centers, C.A.R.E.4Paws has volunteers take their services to the community. This way, those who are unable to visit centers on their own still have access to essential resources.
“We’re looking at the problem though every angle,” said Ms. Gullo. “We don’t want to overlook anything or anyone.”
While broadening its reach every day, the program is just getting started. Eventually, Ms. Gullo hopes to have pet resource centers everywhere. Until then, she’s happy to watch the initiative grow.
“The more the word gets out, the more resource centers will be used,” said Ms. Gullo. “We want pet owners in the community to know we’re here to help. Our goal is to ensure families are happy, healthy and together for life.”
For more information about C.A.R.E.4Paws or to support its programs, visit care4paws.org or call (805) 968-2273. The organization is actively looking for pet food and pet supplies to meet the community’s growing demand.