Local shelter dogs and pets received lots of love at the Elwin Mussell Senior Center on Thursday during a pre-Valentine’s Day event offering low-cost adoptions and veterinary care as part of an effort to reduce shelter populations.
Isabelle Gullo, the nonprofit organization’s co-founder and executive director, said volunteers had a full day as they spayed and neutered approximately a dozen pets and offered prebooked medical services to at least 10 more.
Gullo, who is also a Santa Barbara-based freelance journalist, was volunteering at a local animal shelter when she started C.A.R.E.4Paws with co-founder Carlos Abitia in 2009 to help pet owners keep their four-legged friends by offsetting vet costs and to keep animals out of shelters.
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Abitia and staff microchipped pets for as little as $5 and provided other low-cost services. Adoption fees and licensing fees are offered at $27 for dogs 5 months and older for the entire month of February. Normally, the cost is $133.
Gullo believes her efforts are paying off. The number of animals her organization has assisted with medical treatment spiked dramatically over a three-year period, going from approximately 100 dogs and cats in 2017 to at least 1,100 in 2019.
At least 90% of those animals were helped in the mobile clinic, she added.
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“We could spend all of our time taking care of the abandoned pets or do something to prevent them from being abandoned,” Gullo said.
Several shelter dogs — both big and small, and some with medical conditions — made special appearances in the hopes they’ll find their forever homes.
There was Hank, an 8- to 10-year-old male Staffordshire mix, who was found “staggering” along the road near Stowell Road and Broadway by a good Samaritan and brought to the shelter, according to Darlene Casey, who attended the event with several other volunteers from the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter on Foster Road.
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Hank already knew such tricks as sit, stay and shake, Casey said, yet no one claimed him at the shelter.
He was taken to a hospital where X-rays revealed there was a large bony mass on his right front leg, Casey said.
Expecting Hank to be euthanized, Casey devised a bucket list of several items that included taking him to the beach and the Santa Maria Inn, where he lapped in luxury.
But Hank didn’t appear willing to give up that lifestyle quite yet, and everyone had second thoughts on putting him down, Casey said.
Casey and other volunteers are raising money to help fund an appointment with an oncologist in Santa Barbara on Feb. 25 to confirm if Hank has cancer.
In the meantime, Hank is on pain medication and being fostered until he lives out his days, gets adopted or both, Casey added.
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“Honestly, we’re just indulging him,” Casey said, adding that Hank gets along with male and female dogs of all sizes.
Maurice, a 4-year-old Havanese mix, was brought to the shelter with what appeared to be a broken jaw that healed slightly out-of-place, Casey said.
The injury has made it slightly difficult for Maurice to eat, but he has since adapted, said Casey, who cradled Maurice as he fell asleep in her arms.
Casey added that more volunteers are needed at the shelter. The next volunteer orientation will he held from 2 to 3 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Santa Maria Shelter at 548 W. Foster Road.