The Birth of an Animal Shelter Auxiliary


My focus was on the apparel of the senior citizens attending the fundraiser for the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA).

In late April each year, this spaghetti and bingo fundraiser hosted by the Santa Clara Youth Commission is held at the Santa Clara Senior Center. Some of the attendees who had adopted family members from SVACA wore pictures of their beloved pets on their sweatshirts and tee shirts. It was just so darn cute, “meeting” those cats and dogs who had found loving homes with wonderful caring people. “Too bad more people don’t know about the shelter so we can find loving homes for the other adoptable animals,” I thought. 

At that very same event, Dan Soszynski, the Executive Director of SVACA, casually mentioned to me how many other city-funded shelters had nonprofit partners to support their animals and services. DING!! My instant reaction was “I can do that” (I’d say Dan got the desired response) and thus Friends of SVACA was born. Our mission is to raise funds for SVACA, increase awareness of its programs and services, and reduce the companion animal overpopulation problem in our region. We strive to ensure the well-being of animals through education, outreach, and fund raising by establishing programs that support SVACA and benefit the animals in its care.

Friends of SVACA is a nonprofit 501(c)3 formed in 2008. We are a completely volunteer organization, with no paid officers or staff. Last year (our first official year) we attended about 30 events, spreading the word about the shelter and the wonderful animals available for adoption there. We also held a number of dine-out fundraisers and a silent auction at the shelter. This year we plan to host a silent auction fundraiser at a local doggie hotspot, and other projects are also in the works.

Unlike many private nonprofit organizations, SVACA is required to accept any animal presented to it, which stretches the shelter’s resources thin. It is not affiliated with the Humane Society of the U.S., as many people believe, or any other large, well-funded organization. Further, SVACA is limited by a Joint Powers Agreement in the ways in which it can raise needed funds. Because of the tremendous government   funding cutbacks, the shelter has become increasingly strained financially, and that’s where Friends of SVACA comes in. 

We presently have two new programs in place to help support the shelter, a Spay/Neuter Voucher Program and the Second Chance at Life Fund. Donations received for the Second Chance fund will be used to perform simple health treatments, such as having a tooth pulled, stitching up a wound, or treating intestinal parasites, to make animals in need more adoptable. The need for these small but necessary medical treatments has escalated to critical levels with the extended economic downturn, as more and more family pets are turned over to animal shelters. Corrective procedures are readily available, however each one can cost $300 to $1,000. This is not within the budget of an already overburdened animal control authority. Our goal this year is to combine donations with grants and give at least 50 companion animals a Second Chance at Life. 

After medical treatment, as needed, SVACA focuses on getting animals adopted into loving homes that are appropriate and welcoming within three months. Available animals and their stories are featured on the shelter website and on Facebook, as well as in community outreach and education events. 

As I sit writing this article, my shelter ambassador, Jasmine, is nudging my arm, reminding me that it is time for her walk. She is a Lab-Pit Bull mix and loves to “volunteer” at events with our group, to show the world how wonderful shelter dogs can be. She is one of the lucky ones that made it into a good forever home. Please spread the word about SVACA and help make this a reality for other homeless animal companions.

For more information or to make a donation to our life-saving work, visit and

Caryn Linn is President of Friends of Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority. She can be reached at