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Local nonprofits step up to help animals in need in San Benito County

Local non-profits work with the community and Hollister Animal Shelter in efforts to support abandoned, lost, abused, and surrendered animals in San Benito County
Forgiving Paws Thrift Shop describes itself as an "all volunteer nonprofit dedicated to supporting pet rescue"
Veronica Sanchez started the Hollister Animal Lost and Found (H.A.L.F.) Facebook page in 2009 after losing her dog Pedro. Photo courtesy of Veronica Sanchez.
Deanna Barth was recently awarded the 2017 Humanitarian of the Year Award by Pet Friends and Rescue. Deanna Barth is an administrator for the Hollister Animal Lost and Found Facebook group as well as the founder of The Wildlife Emergency Services – San Benito County Facebook group. Photo courtesy of Veronica Sanchez.
Pet Friends is located at 2975 Buena Vista Road in Hollister and focuses on rescuing and adopting out cats and dogs
Both cats and dogs at Pet Friends have indoor and outdoor access
As found on a notice at the Pet Friends Facility, "Our charter has always been that we rescue animals only from the Hollister Animal Shelter when we have space available"

Though multiple nonprofit organizations in San Benito County are looking to solve issues related to lost, abandoned, abused, and/or surrendered animals, their means of finding a solution differ. These efforts range from a foster rescue to a thrift store donating all profits to “supporting the life-saving work of animal shelters and rescues.”

Kara Ells, animal care and services supervisor for the government-operated Hollister Animal Shelter said that the shelter was, “grateful” to have these organizations helping in the effort to reunite owners with their pets, as well as to increase the success rate of animals in the community being adopted out.

“It’s great working together because it reduces the euthanasia rates and gives more animals a chance to find their forever home,” Ells said.

Four such organizations found within San Benito County include All Creatures Great and Small, Forgiving Paws Thrift Shop, Hollister Animal Lost and Found, and Pet Friends.

All Creatures Great and Small Rescue (ACGSR)

After going through what Vivian Peacock calls “the darkest point in my life,” the idea for creating an animal shelter was born. Peacock is founder and president of All Creatures Great and Small and runs the organization. 

“I have a deep-rooted faith, and in all truth, it was in a dream where I was guided by God to help animals and my church," Peacock said. "He saved me, and has never let the rescue down. That was the beginning of All Creatures Great and Small."

Unlike a traditional kennel shelter or rescue, ACGSR utilizes the fostering system.

“Sadly the ones in the shelters or kennel-based cannot receive the one-on-one attention that is given to them in a home setting," Peacock said. "By the time a dog/cat gets introduced to a prospective adopter(s), the foster Mum and the rescue coordinator can tell you all there is to know about the pet. It gets the socialization with other pets, men and children (if applicable) and any guests that might come to the home.”

Peacock stated that this setting often leads not only to more knowledge about the pet itself, but also gives the foster family a chance to train an animal if needed.

“The two main questions I get asked by prospective adopters are- is the pet housebroken, and leash trained," she said. "By the time the pet is adopted this is in most cases accomplished and more.”

For people interested in fostering an animal, Rosa Sanchez, who fosters dogs for ACGSR, said, “Make sure you have patience. A lot of these animals may need to be potty-trained or have medical visits.”

For Sanchez however, fostering an animal has more rewards than drawbacks. It frees up the shelters and provides the foster parent with "unconditional love" from the animal itself.

“Fostering saves lives," she said.

Other animals accepted by All Creatures Great and Small Rescue include cats, reptiles, rabbits, rats, and farm animals which, according to Peacock, are transported to a safe sanctuary.

ACGSR also has made an effort to help with the feral cat situation in Hollister.

“We have been doing TNR (trap,neuter and release of feral cats) since conception, have saved many lives of these often unwanted and uncared-for cats," Peacock said. "However this takes support from the public (financial and otherwise). We cannot stress the importance of spay/neutering and vaccinating your cats (and dogs). This saves the lives that all too often end up in the shelter as unwanted litters."

As a nonprofit organization, All Creatures Great and Small Rescue is dependent on donations from the community, as well as adoption fees to keep the organization going.

As a result of animals being fostered through families, all inquiries about the organization, donations, fostering, and/or animals listed on the organization's website can be found through email or by calling the organization at 831-917-5570.

Peacock said, “We pride ourselves in the care we give to our rescues and our customer service. We are available by phone (7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.) seven days a week, the phone will be answered even during holidays by a live person. Emails are usually responded to the same day. To us, rescue knows no dates or times.”

Forgiving Paws Thrift Shop

After losing five pugs in November 2006 from a huge pet food recall, Maggie Lairson was inspired to create an organization that would help other animals in need. What started out as a series of garage sales at her home to raise money soon turned into Forgiving Paws Thrift Shop located in Hollister at 195 Meridian Street Suite B-18.

As found on the organization's website, “We are delighted to provide a clean, open and inviting thrift shop in Hollister for you to shop in and to tell your friends about. We have racks of clothing, shelves of home decor items and a one-of-a-kind library of gently used books, CDs and DVDs. And more!”

All proceeds from the store are donated to local and outside organizations such as Pet Friends in Hollister and Operation Freedom Paws in San Martin.

“We are a fully volunteer organization," Lairson said. "We have donated over $90,000 in the three years we have been open. We started a Sputner Fund and Helping Paws Fund. We help those who rescue and the public with help in costs for spay and neuter and emergency veterinary costs."

In the future, Lairson hopes to expand her efforts by creating a sanctuary for cats. Lairson also hopes to increase shop profits to provide more support for the community. “I have a goal to open a sanctuary for cats on my property hopefully in the near future. I hope to get more awareness to the existence of my organization and to make the realization that donating stuff is only half of the help needed. We need shoppers and monetary needs to complete the circle,” Lairson said.

More information on Forgiving Paws Thrift Shop can be found on the organization's website.

H.A.L.F. Hollister Animal Lost and Found 

When Veronica Sanchez lost her dog Pedro in 2009 she did not want another pet owner to experience similar anxiety. With social media on the rise Sanchez created the H.A.L.F. Hollister Animal Lost and Found Facebook page in order for members in the community to post missing, found, and/or sighted animal notices in one place.

According to Sanchez, these efforts have paid off as roughly 40-50 animals a month are reunited with their owners and roughly 15 animals a month are picked up by one of three organization administrators, based on posts found on the Facebook page.

H.A.L.F. currently consists of three administrators: Sanchez, Deanna Barth who also runs “The Wildlife Emergency Services – San Benito County” Facebook page, and Kevin Barcellos. In addition to managing the H.A.L.F. Facebook page, all three administrators work together to try to capture animals spotted in the area. Once captured, animals are reported as found to the Hollister Animal Shelter in an effort to reunite the animal with its owner and to protect animals from potential danger, such as being hitting by a car.

Sanchez said that as of April 2, the group had 3,757 members and worked with local organizations, such as the local animal shelter, Pet Friends, and All Creatures Great and Small Rescue in their efforts.

When asked what message the organization would like the community to know, Sanchez said, “Have compassion for all living things.”

Pet Friends

Started in October 1991, Pet Friends is a no-kill shelter that focuses on cats and dogs who will be able to be adopted out.

Pet Friends is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that benefits homeless companion animals of San Benito County. Their website reads, "Our Mission is to eliminate cruelty and neglect of abandoned companion animals and to encourage a community atmosphere of education, care, and concern that will strengthen the human/animal bond.”

Part of their efforts include offering spaying and neutering services not only for the cat and dogs that come through the shelter, but also feral cats in the area.

According to Office Manager Kathy Puthoff, the organization will spay or neuter feral cats and then release them to their colonies in an effort to slow population growth. Though acknowledging that “it’s a drop in the bucket,” Puthoff said, “We do what we can.”

Located at 2975 Buena Vista Road in Hollister, Puthoff said that the shelter has room for eight dogs and currently has 34 cats on site. In addition to receiving private funding and donations from community members, Puthoff said Pet Friends organizes two to three fundraisers a year to help with the costs of keeping the shelter open. One such event is the annual Pet Friends Fur Ball dinner and auction which took place March 24 at San Juan Oaks and was sold out.

Knowing that resolving issues related to animals in the community is a joint effort, Puthoff said, “Be conscientious, loving owners and don’t dump your animals."

For more information on Pet Friends, animals for adoption, or volunteer and/or donation opportunities contact the organization at (831) 634-1191.

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About:
Becky Bonner (bjbonner22)

Becky Bonner is a local teacher at San Benito High School who is passionate about sharing things to do in San Benito County.

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