A Central Coast nonprofit organization dedicated to helping pets and their owners facing financial problems will hold an event Saturday in Santa Maria to collect donations of dog and cat food and to adopt out homeless animals.
C.A.R.E.4Paws will host its Donation Drive-Thru & Home for the Holidays Adoption Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge, 1309 N. Bradley Road.
The organization will conduct a similar event at the same time at Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara.
Supporters can drive through to drop off dog and cat food as well as monetary donations to support the organization’s intervention services, said Isabelle Gullo, C.A.R.E.4Paws’ co-founder and executive director.
Gullo noted life was difficult for thousands of pet families in Santa Barbara County before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and now, 20 months later, at least 8,000 families in the county are living below the poverty level.
“When people live in poverty, so do their animals,” Gullo said, pointing out that, on average, 65% of families own at least one pet.
She said since the pandemic started, the number of pet families supported by C.A.R.E.4Paws has grown to more than 20,000 a year.
“Pets are family, and people should never be forced to choose between caring for their four-legged family members and caring for themselves,” she said.
To alleviate that problem, she said her organization partners with animal and human welfare organizations and, with the help of community donations, they create a safety net to help keep people and pets together.
But as the economy is slowly returning to normal, some rescue pets are finding themselves homeless for a second time.
At the start of the pandemic, many people were required to stay home in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and a lot of those individuals adopted dogs and cats from local shelters to provide companionship.
But now, as people return to their workplaces, a large number of those pets are being returned to shelters again, Gullo said, which prompted C.A.R.E.4Paws to add animal adoption to Saturday’s donation drive.
In addition to dropping off donations, people can park to visit with adoptable pets from such groups as ASAP, the Animal Shelter Assistance Program; Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society in partnership with DAWG, the Dog Adoption Welfare Group; and BUNS, the Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter organization.
Other groups offering adoptable animals include Spark Rescue, Aussie Rescue Networking Group and Santa Barbara Humane, Gullo said.
Family photos with Santa will be available from C.A.R.E.4Paws, with proceeds to benefit its programs, and complimentary photos will be given to anyone adopting a pet during the festival, she said.
Over the last 12 years, C.A.R.E.4Paws has provided access to veterinary care, spaying and neutering services, pet food and supplies to low-income and needy pet owners.
In 2021 alone, the organization’s Mobile Community Medicine & Spay/Neuter Outreach team will alter and provide medical treatment to more than 4,000 pets for free or at low cost, Gullo said.
Its Companion Pet Assistance program distributes several tons of pet food weekly countywide through the mobile clinic and distribution events with Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People.
Pet food is also delivered directly to homebound seniors, senior centers and low-income housing facilities and, along with pet supplies, is provided at several Pet Resource Centers co-hosted by such agencies as Santa Barbara County Animal Services, Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, People Helping People and Good Samaritan Shelters.