By DAVE MASON
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
Throw the ball!
Bronson didn’t feel like he was asking too much. After all, the slender, energetic dog poised patiently for several News-Press photos, but now the eagerness was building in his eyes as he lay in a big yard on a comfortable, sunny morning in Buellton. The 6-year-old heeler mix remained still, but whimpered a little. He wanted to run!
Finally the ball was thrown, and Bronson brought it back to the visitor’s feet. Throw it again! The visitor kept throwing it, and Bronson, having trained the human, kept bringing it back.
“You’ll be doing that all day!” Bob Jennings, president of the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society, cautioned the visitor.
Bronson obviously felt happy at his new home at the humane society shelter. He moved there from Dog Adoption & Welfare Adoption Group, one of the shelters on Overpass Road in Goleta.
DAWG needed a new home after a decision by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, which owns the property where DAWG and the health department’s neighboring Animal Services shelter stands. The department last year told DAWG the lease would not be renewed, Onalisa Hoodes, the DAWG president, told the News-Press.
The lease expires in March.
DAWG has started to close its campus. Already, the sign is down and only a few dogs are there, but that’s not the end of a story for a longtime nonprofit about to start a new chapter.
No, for Bronson and dogs like him, this is a new beginning.
In mid-March, there will be a newly merged nonprofit: Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society in Partnership with DAWG. DAWG’s canines are joining the dogs and cats at the humane society in Buellton.
It means doubling the population of canines at the humane society, Julie Cousino, the humane society shelter manager, said. “Currently it means 40 dogs.”
But Mrs. Cousino, Mr. Jennings and Onalisa Hoodes, president of DAWG, told the News-Press that the merger will benefit both nonprofits, which have a similar size and equal dedication to finding homes for animals.
“They do everything they can to save the life of a pet,” Mrs. Cousino said about DAWG. “We have the same philosophy.”
She said that like DAWG, the humane society does everything it can to make sure pets are comfortable and healthy.
The nonprofits are combining their resources and talents. Ms. Hoodes and Lori Turner-Huey, the DAWG treasurer, will join the board of the newly merged nonprofit. Mr. Jennings will continue as the president, and Ms. Cousino will remain the shelter manager.
“It’s been a tearful month for all of us at DAWG and we do expect more tears as the day draws near,” Ms. Hoodes said about leaving Overpass Road, but noted the nonprofit has felt privileged to have served the community for more than 25 years.
“The time has come for us to continue our mission alongside our new partner, the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society,” she said.
“While DAWG will no longer have this address, we will always be here in spirit, along with the thousands of dogs who have passed through our loving hearts and kennels,” she said.
In addition to DAWG’s canines finding a shelter, the Buellton-based humane society will extend its outreach into Santa Barbara as DAWG’s previous adoption events continue.
Already, the two shelters have been exchanging dogs to promote their adoptions. And on Valentine’s Day, DAWG and the humane society teamed up to provide adoptable dogs as ring bearers or wedding party adoptions during 21 wedding ceremonies at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse on Anacapa Street. Ms. Cousino said the event resulted in some adoptions for the Buellton shelter.
The two nonprofits are seeing other advantages with the merger. The humane society will gain DAWG’s X-ray and ultrasound machines, and DAWG will now have use of the society’s van for transporting pets, Mr. Jennings said.
And DAWG, which didn’t do spays and neuters, will be part of the Buellton shelter, which does spays and neuters for Santa Ynez Valley and Lompoc.
The humane society has operated on an annual budget of $460,000, Mr. Jennings said. “DAWG is going to be moving all of its assets over to us.”
Mr. Jennings said DAWG’s endowment fund will remain in DAWG’s name.
The merger is taking effect just as DAWG leaves Overpass Road.
Ms. Hoodes said she did not know why the county Public Health Department decided against renewing DAWG’s lease, but the News-Press requested and received an explanation from the department.
“The decision not to renew DAWG’s lease was largely based on the Santa Barbara County Animal Services’ need to expand sheltering options for county animals,” the health department said in an emailed statement. “Additionally, this is an opportunity for the Public Health Department to reassess the development of the Overpass campus and to work with our BUNS and ASAP partners to identify other sheltering needs.”
BUNS is Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter, and ASAP is Animal Shelter Assistance Program, which cares for cats and offers special programs for felines. Both are located on the Animal Services campus, which is in-between DAWG and another private nonprofit, the Santa Barbara Humane Society.
Leases will no longer be an issue with DAWG’s move to the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society site, Ms. Hoodes said. The humane society owns the property where its shelter is located.
The move from Goleta to Buellton certainly has gone well for Rosie, a big dog with an even bigger heart.
“Rosie is a big hunk of love!” Ms. Hoodes said. “Her ideal day is snuggling up with her person for a snooze and eating lots of snacks.”
During the News-Press visit in Buellton, Rosie was quick to show affection for Ms. Cousino and Emily Dunson, the kennel manager.
Miss Dunson also spent time for Bronson, throwing the ball for him.
“Bronson is just an amazing, handsome dog,” Miss Dunson said. “He’s very affectionate once he gets to know you.”
Ms. Hoodes said she hopes that eventually a Santa Barbara storefront will be found so that the newly merged nonprofit will have a regular South Coast presence. “That would be a huge benefit for both DAWG and the Santa Ynez Valley dogs.”
Mr. Jennings stressed the importance of the merger and noted the value of animal nonprofits working together.
The News-Press saw an example of that when Shadow’s Fund, a Lompoc adoption facility, donated its spot in the newspaper’s Pet of the Week rotation to DAWG and the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society to promote Manny, a 10-year-old Staffy mix.
Manny has made the move from Goleta to Buellton.
“He’s a really sweet dog,” Ms. Cousino said.
Added Mr. Jennings, “You find so many dogs and cats homes if we’re working together.”