Santa Barbara County pet owners struggling to hang onto and care for their pets amid the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic now have two new places to get assistance with pet food and supplies and access to veterinary services.
The County Division of Animal Services and nonprofit C.A.R.E.4Paws have joined forces with five other nonprofit groups to open Pet Resource Centers at the Lompoc and Santa Barbara animal shelters.
Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne cut a ribbon on May 26, opening the resource center at the Lompoc shelter, 1501 W. Central Ave., while Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte cut the opening ribbon at the Santa Barbara shelter, 5473 Overpass Road.
The two pet resource centers join one that opened in January 2020 at the Santa Maria Animal Shelter at 548 W. Foster Road as well as 10 C.A.R.E.4Paws assistance centers that opened in 2019 at partner organizations throughout the county.
“We strongly feel that no pet owner should have to make a decision between paying a household bill and buying food for their pet,” said Isabelle Gullo, co-founder and executive director of C.A.R.E.4Paws.
“We’re continuing to expand support for pet owners in need so their animals can stay with their homes rather than being surrendered,” she said.
Other groups joining the effort are Companion Animal Placement Assistance, or CAPA; Animal Care Foundation of Santa Barbara County; Animal Shelter Assistance Program, or ASAP Cats; K-9 Placement and Assistance League, or K-9 PALS; and Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter, or BUNS.
CAPA has sponsored a pet food bank at the Lompoc shelter since 1997.
Pet owners finding it difficult to care for their animals can visit a Pet Resource Center to pick up dog and cat food and other supplies. They also can sign up to receive pet wellness services and veterinary care in C.A.R.E.4Paws’ mobile clinic and the County Animal Services clinic at the Santa Maria Animal Center.
Collaborating with community organizations to provide services to pet owners and animals is part of the “new vision” outlined May 18 for the County Board of Supervisors by new Animal Services Director Angela Yates.
“These Pet Resource Centers are a perfect example of how we can provide greater service to the community through partnership,” Yates said. “Alone, none of our organizations could provide all the support and services needed in our county, but together we can form a strong safety net that keeps animals together with their families, in homes rather than shelters.”
Gullo said the Pet Resource Centers are really an expansion of previous cooperation between Animal Services and C.A.R.E.4Paws.
“We’ve always collaborated, and over the years we’ve only strengthened that collaboration with projects such as spay and neuter clinics and promotions for pets that need homes,” Gullo said.
Animal Services and C.A.R.E.4Paws began collaborating even more closely during the pandemic to prevent animals from being relinquished at the three county shelters.
When pet owners inquired about relinquishing their animals, a joint staff member helped provide access to services and support they needed so they wouldn’t have to give up their pets.
The need for Pet Resource Centers is evidenced in the increase in pet food distributed by C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Companion Pet Assistance program during the pandemic.
Gullo said prior to the pandemic, the organization distributed a total of about 4,000 pounds of dog and cat food a year to needy pet owners.
“Since the pandemic started, we’ve distributed 400,000 pounds of pet food,” she said. “That’s 4 tons of pet food every week, or 100 times what we did in a year before COVID.”