In January, pets and politics joined forces. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that $50 million had been earmarked in the 2020-21 fiscal budget to make California a no-kill state. The money would be awarded to the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program over five years and would be used to provide shelters — across the state — with training and resources to transform their organizations to no-kill.
The need in California is greater than most of us might expect. It turns out that California still euthanizes more than 100,000 pets per year, second only in the nation to Texas. Importantly, the governor’s proposed effort focuses on underserved and under-resourced shelters in the state.
We, in the Bay Area, will certainly benefit from this sea change. We all win when pets are rescued and lives are saved. But how does this impact rescues that have had to operate reactively, pulling at-risk pets with time running out? If, over time, shelters improve their processes with more resources, how do rescue groups stay involved in the process?
This is something we’ve grappled with at Silicon Valley Pet Project. With great Bay Area support for no-kill and shelters that have proposefully moved to less euthanasia, we’ve worked to envision and develop an organization that proactively involves, educates, and enables the community in helping us save lives, reduce pet homelessness, and build the relationship with owners and their pets after adoption occurs.
We rented and renovated a low-cost storefront that we call Pup Plaza. Our volunteers helped create an open, sweet, and safe space, which happened to come with an enclosed courtyard. It’s taken more than a year, but we’ve established an extensive roster of educational and fun activities at Pup Plaza, all with lifesaving in mind. We don’t house animals at Pup Plaza — we rely on our robust foster network until pets are adopted — but we have adoption events there every weekend. We partnered with the San Jose Care and Control Center to develop a Shelter Dog Day Out program. Now, every Monday, our volunteers give shelter residents some well-deserved exposure, exercise, and R&R. We offer Reading with Dogs for children aged 6 and up, Levels-based Dog Training, Cat Lovers Chats, Low-Cost Microchip Clinics, and classes on topics such as “How to Help Your Senior Dog with Arthritis.” We have fundraisers on site (Yappy Hour is incredibly popular!) and also make the space available for celebrations like dog birthday parties. We continue to build and evolve our offerings based on the needs of our community.
The precursor to all of this was establishing a meaningful partnership with the San Jose Animal Care and Control Center. The team there is not only interested in working closely with us — the team is also committed to no-kill. As a result, we are tending to rescue animals with special medical or behavioral needs that can’t be provided in the shelter environment. We are grateful every day for the positive strides we have made together.
We know that not all shelters and regions in California have the resources and support needed to save lives. The governor’s earmarked $50 million still needs to be approved. The legislature and governor revise the budget proposal in May. The legislature has until June 15 to approve it and the governor has until July 1 to sign it into law. Once that happens, the money will be available to make a difference to shelter pets — who don’t need to be at risk. Call your state senator or assemblymember today. Tell them that you support the proposed funds to make California a no-kill state.
Karen Zamel is a senior communications professional, animal lover, and a longtime volunteer for Silicon Valley Pet Project. She provides media relations and marketing support to the organization. Learn more about Silicon Valley Pet Project and Pup Plaza at SVPetProject.org and PupPlaza.org.
Shelter Zone features a shelter and rescue group each month. If you would like to contribute, contact Editor@BayWoof.com.