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Standing by Dogs Like Elsa

Founded in 1952, Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA is a private, open-door, not-for-profit animal welfare organization whose vital work is made possible by volunteers and donations. PHS/SPCA receives no funding from national or national sounding animal welfare organizations. As an open-door shelter, we accept all animals brought to us, regardless of age, breed, size, and even species.

Since 2003, we’ve re-homed 100 percent of the healthy, adoptable dogs and cats in our care and continue to maintain this promise going forward. But we don’t just adopt out cats and dogs. PHS/SPCA shelters and finds homes for all animals, from reptiles, chickens, hamsters, and other small animals to farm animals.

These animals come to us in a variety of ways, often as strays rescued on the streets by our staff or the public. Sometimes they are surrendered to the PHS/ because their owners can no longer provide for them. Regardless how these animals arrive or in what condition they are in, our doors are open to them.

Many animals that come into our shelter need extra medical or behavior training before they can be made available for adoption. Two decades ago, we established the Hope Program, a fund to help provide for the neediest of animals. The Hope Program gives injured and abused animals a second chance and saves on average more than 150 animals a month that come into our shelter.

One such animal we were able to save through our Hope Program is Elsa, a beautiful and charismatic 5-year-old pit bull that was found tied up outside a market in East Palo Alto. Elsa didn’t require too much medical attention, but she did require extensive behavior training. After living on the streets and having to fend for herself, Elsa needed to learn basic commands and that she didn’t need to compete with other dogs for food and attention. Our staff and volunteers worked for months on behavior training with Elsa before she was ready for adoption at our shelter.

Although Elsa won the hearts of our staff and volunteers, potential adopters continued to pass her up for over a year. But while Elsa waited, she made the most of her time at PHS/SPCA by becoming a star student in our obedience classes. She watched other dogs get adopted and never seemed to give up hope that one day she too would be adopted.

Finally after Elsa waited 510 days, her dream of being adopted into a loving home came true when a family from Belmont spotted this gorgeous girl and knew right away she was the perfect dog for them.

Our promise to adopt 100 percent of the healthy, adoptable cats and dogs in our care meant that however long it took for Elsa to get adopted, we would stand by her and continue to provide love and care until those adoption papers were signed, no matter how long that took.

We were able to provide top-notch behavior care to Elsa through the generous support of donors to our Hope Program and the dedication of our volunteers and staff.

Elsa is just one of thousands of animals we shelter, treat, and find new loving homes for every year. We consider it an honor to play a role in the life of every animal that comes through our door and to help our community members find the perfect animal companion match. We’ve been making human and animal matches since our doors first opened in 1952 and we hope to continue to do so for a very long time.

We do it for Elsa and all those other animals that come to us in need of food, shelter, medical, and behavior attention and a new loving home.

Buffy Martin Tarbox is the communications manager for the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA. She began her career working in advocacy, media relations, and electoral politics and has directed over 60 political campaign races throughout Nevada and the San Francisco Bay Area. Earlier this year, she left the political campaign field and joined the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA. She is a long-time advocate for animals and volunteers for a local wildlife organization where she helps transport injured wildlife. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and their two cats. Visit to learn about PHS/SPCA’s programs, services, ways to help the animals, special events, and how to become involved please.

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Main article photo by: Photo courtesy Penninsula Humane Society & SPCA