Public-private partnership serves low-income pet owners
Santa Barbara County Animal Services and C.A.R.E.4Paws, alongside five additional pet-centric nonprofits, are expanding their services to low-income pet owners this Wednesday by opening pet resource centers at the county animal shelters in Lompoc and Santa Barbara.
Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborn will cut the ceremonial ribbon at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Lompoc’s shelter, at 1501 W Central Ave., opening the new resource center. Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte will perform the Santa Barbara shelter’s ceremony at 1 p.m. Wednesday at 5473 Overpass Road.
“We’re really trying to push that we don’t want someone to have to choose between paying bills and feeding their animals or turning their animals in, and so the more locations and areas that we can offer, the better. They can get help for their animals, and they don’t have to turn an animal into the shelters,” Jessica Ortega-Wiebe, Animal Services’ responsible pet ownership program coordinator, told the News-Press.
Caring for a pet is expensive, potentially pricing out many members of the community, but Animal Services and its private partnerships provide services ensure that low-income individuals can still receive the love of a furry companion.
The pet resource centers are one way pet owners can ensure their animals’ needs are met. The centers are stocked with community donations of dog and cat food and other supplies, and staff can also help sign up for low-cost veterinary care.
C.A.R.E.4Paws independently hosts 10 pet resource centers throughout the community, but its partnership with Animal Services amplifies the accessibility of these resources.
The organization launched its first center in a county shelter in January 2020, located in the Santa Maria shelter.
The center has been self-sustaining and busy, said Ms. Ortega-Wiebe. Occasionally Animal Services will post on social media that stock is getting low, and community members will quickly replenish supply.
The Companion Animal Placement Assistance has sponsored a pet food bank at the shelter in Lompoc since 1997 and was consulted before the new pet resource center partnership launched in its place. CAPA was happy to join in.
The following nonprofits have also joined the partnership: the Animal Care Foundation of Santa Barbara County, ASAP Cats, K-9 PALS and Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter.
“These Pet Resource Centers are a perfect example of how we can provide greater service to the community through partnership,” Angela Yates, director of Santa Barbara County Animal Services, said in a news release. “Alone, none of our organizations could provide all the support and services needed in our county, but together we can form a strong safety net that keeps animals together with their families, in homes rather than shelters.”
Animal Services and C.A.R.E.4Paws also have a program that assists pet owners who are inquiring about surrendering their pet to a shelter. A staff member helps the owners access food and veterinary care if they need financial assistance to keep their animal.
The pandemic has heightened the needs of pet owners.
Since the pandemic’s beginning, C.A.R.E.4Paws has distributed 400,000 pounds of pet food through its Companion Pet Assistance program. This is 100x greater than any previous year’s distribution.
Meanwhile, shelters have closed doors and held adoptions by appointment, fostering many pets in homes.
“A good part about the COVID-19 pandemic is that we have learned so much about how we can make sheltering to be more innovative, more streamlined,” said Ms. Ortega-Wiebe. “Because of COVID, we had to pivot quickly to get the services out there.”
Animal Services has provided drive-through vaccination clinics during the pandemic and thought outside of the shelters’ walls.
Soon, it will hold a free microchip clinic, so pet owners can register their dogs through a tiny injectable chip before July 4 (not a dog’s favorite holiday).
But, for now, Animal Services is just excited to open the new resource centers.
“The Pet Resource Center shelves are filled with food donated by individual community members and local businesses, and we encourage everyone to be a part of this project by continuing to drop off donations at all three shelter locations,” Isabelle Gullo, C.A.R.E.4Paws’ executive director, said in a news release. “Together we can ensure that no cat or dog in our county goes hungry.”
Pet resource centers are open for giving and for donations during shelters’ office hours: 9 a.m. to 12:30 and 1:30 to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
To find all of C.A.R.E.4Paws’ pet resource centers and access other needs, go to care4paws.org/petassistance.
To explore Santa Barbara County Animal Services’ programs, visit countyofsb.org/phd/animal/home.sbc.