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Good Samaritans Are Our Community’s Unsung Heroes

Good Samaritan (good sa·mar·i·tan) n. 1 One who voluntarily renders aid to another in distress although under no duty to do so.

Mohamed and Belqis were surprised when a frightened pit bull ran tail-tucked into their East Oakland grocery store and hid. They stopped their staff from shooing her back out. “She needs help,” they said. They named her Missy, and after working to get her vetted and leash trained, announced that they’d fallen in love and planned to keep her.

Elva took Beya from an abusive owner, but then found herself homeless while she searched for an affordable apartment that allowed dogs. She burned through her SSI checks to rent pet-friendly hotel rooms to keep Beya safe until the stress got to be too much for both of them. Luckily, an opening on our BADRAP foster program gave Beya a safe haven, and the resigned but broken-hearted Elva moved back with family.

Ashley intervened when a big blocky dog was found tied to a pole in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. His owner had been sent to jail, a homeless man announced. “Simba” was not a likely candidate for adoption from our crowded city shelter, so Ashley searched high and low through her own network of friends and finally found a suitable home where he’s now thriving.

Unsung heroes like these folks are working quietly off the radar to do good deeds every single day in the SF Bay Area. In fact, they do so much heavy lifting to keep so many lost and displaced dogs safe from harm, it’s no exaggeration to describe Good Samaritan work as one of the most effective life saving-efforts happening in our home towns today.

The need for their altruism is real: According to the California Housing Partnership Corporation, Alameda and Contra Costa counties combined need 91,000 more affordable rental homes to meet the needs of our community. Pet owners who lose housing through foreclosure or other misfortune can feel forced to make impossible decisions: Either surrender their beloveds to overcrowded animal shelters and hope for the best, turn them loose in an area where animal lovers might take pity on them, go homeless until they luck into a pet-friendly home, or give them to someone who may be ill-prepared for the responsibilities. Since we’ve been tracking the trends through BADRAP’s dog-owner assistance program, we’ve been privileged to meet literally hundreds, possibly thousands, of Good Samaritans who take up the slack of helping displaced pets in our communities. Most do it on shoestring budgets and without any fanfare; the only reward they’re after is setting a displaced animal on a better path.

Assisting them in their mission makes good sense in communities that value the humane treatment of animals. To help on that end, BADRAP has redirected much of its resources to the Keep ’Em Home project, which offers free training, support, vaccines, microchips, some vet care (including spay/neuter), and general hand-holding to Good Samaritans while they sort out their best options. Admittedly, the need is much bigger than we are and grows by the day, but the Good Sams are constant reminders that people are good, and beautiful things can grow out of the most troubling situations.

Donna Reynolds is the co-founder and executive director of BAD RAP and keeps the Bay Area nonprofit rescue organization on track with projects that fulfill its mission to “Secure the future of the American Pit Bull Terrier as a cherished family companion.” Learn more about BR at

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FAQs for Samaritans

Think lost, not unwanted. Pets can get thin and dirty within days, and ID tags fall off. Microchips are gaining popularity, but even the best homes put off getting them or forget to update their contact info.

• The law requires that Good Samaritans file a Found Animal report at their local shelter and work for 30 days to find the original owner before taking ownership of the animal.

• has become invaluable for reuniting lost pets with their families, and for finding new homes for those who aren’t claimed. and are important since pets may not live in the same city they were found.

• supports Good Samaritans who find “blocky headed” heads (pit bulls) with home management info, weekly classes, monthly outreach events, and case-by-case problem solving.

• PALS East Bay ( and both provide free vaccines and vouchers for spay/neuter surgeries and problem solving.

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Main article photo by: Kathy Kinnear