The line of people holding their pets on leash, in crates and carriers, and in their arms snaked around the corner and down the block at the Sept. 9 free vaccine clinic hosted by PALS East Bay, aka PALS. Although some had to wait almost three hours, a record number of 260-plus pets were cared for. Dogs and cats received many services, including core vaccines, flea treatments, de-worming medication, and microchips, along with referrals for additional services.
PALS stands for People, Animals, Love and Support and is a nonprofit run by volunteers. It is not the typical animal rescue organization that focuses on pulling animals from high-kill shelters and finding them homes; instead, PALS considers itself an animal welfare agency working to keep pets healthy and in their current homes by supporting their families with access to free or low-cost veterinary care. Its mission is to serve pets and the people who love them based on the ideal that all pets should have access to basic care. The cornerstone of this care is the free clinics.
PALS clinics are every four weeks, rain or shine, and occur outside the Ira Jinkins Recreation Center at 9175 Edes Ave. in Oakland. The clinics attract families from all over the East Bay. Demand for these clinics is up 30 percent from the beginning of the year, and PALS is on track to serve 2,700 pets in 2018.
Jessica Lefebvre, PALS director, was inspired to start the free clinics three years ago while volunteering at Oakland Animal Services. OAS had treated a record number of dogs with parvovirus, or parvo, and a large percentage of these dogs were surrendered because the owners were unable to afford medical care. Parvo is often deadly, yet preventable when dogs are fully vaccinated. Lefebvre knew the key to curbing parvo was making the life-saving vaccine available to all.
The clinics have also proven a gateway to affordable community spay/neuter services. Many litters of puppies or kittens served at the clinics are unintentional. The average cost of spay/neuter ranges from $400 to $700 per animal, unaffordable for many. PALS partners with the East Bay SPCA’s humane advocacy program to issue vouchers, which reduce the cost to $25. In 2017 alone, PALS helped nearly 400 dogs and cats get fixed using these vouchers. An exciting new resource in 2018 for Oakland residents is a free pet fix program sponsored by Friends of Oakland Animal Services, accessible via OaklandAnimalServices.org/petfix.
In between clinics, PALS provides outreach to pets living in Oakland’s homeless encampments, offering the same care and services that are available at the clinics. This is critical in preventing the spread of disease and reducing accidental litters among the most vulnerable communities. It also allows other medical concerns to be addressed during routine visits before they can escalate into situations requiring expensive emergency care. PALS has also been able to coordinate emergency care. One recent example is a dog named Piper who belonged to a homeless man living under a freeway onramp. When Piper was hit by a car, PALS stepped in to manage Piper’s care and recovery. Shannon Leggieri, DVM at Claremont Veterinary Hospital and one of PALS’ clinic vets, treated Piper for multiple leg fractures and a serious infection. Piper has since made a full recovery.
Each clinic is supervised by a veterinary doctor and staffed by 25-plus additional volunteers. If you’d like to get involved, PALS especially needs volunteers with dog- and cat-handling skills to help handle and administer vaccines. For those not experienced in handling pets, help is also needed with the administrative aspects of the clinics. The commitment is four hours once a month and includes a vegan lunch. Email PALSVaccineClinic@gmail.com for more information. The last clinic for 2018 will be on Sunday, Dec. 2.
If you don’t have time to volunteer, but would like to help, donations are accepted at PALSEastBay.org/donate.html. The average cost of a clinic is $2,500, but a donation of just $50 can cover the first round of vaccines for a litter of kittens or puppies.
Another way to help out PALS is to become a part of the fundraiser book project DOG TAILS: Pawtraits of Bay Area Dogs, a coffee table photo book being published by Soulful Pet Photography. If you’ve
always wanted to get professional photos of your dog, and you’d like to help out PALS, learn more at Form.jotform.com/82336849584168 or go to
Pipi Ray Diamond is a professional, experienced, patient pet photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area whose photography business is Soulful Pet Photography.
Shannon Leggieri of Claremont Veterinary Hospital with Piper. Photo by Jessica Lefebvre.
Puppy weigh-in at a PALS clinic; photo by Soulful Pet Photography.
Main article photo by: Roger by Soulful Pet Photography