Source: C.A.R.E.4Paws

Since the pandemic started, nonprofit C.A.R.E.4Paws has distributed more than 850,000 pounds of pet food to families in need through its mobile veterinary clinic and regular community events. While life is returning to normal for many community members, thousands of families in Santa Barbara County still struggle to pay rent and bills, let alone feeding their four-legged companions.

This is why C.A.R.E.4Paws volunteer Ava Vasquez, a freshman at Santa Barbara’s San Marcos High School, decided to host a pet food drive at her former elementary school, Vieja Valley in Santa Barbara. “During the pandemic, I have volunteered at C.A.R.E.4Paws’ mobile veterinary clinic, handing out pet food,” Vasquez says. “I see how appreciative the families are for the food, so I thought it would be a really good project to get other students involved to help families that need pet food.”

Over the past month, Vasquez worked directly with Vieja Valley Elementary’s teachers to get all students on board. She made sure students brought home flyers about the drive to their parents and that all of the school’s 15 classrooms had their own large donation boxes, generously gifted by the Home Depot in Lompoc. The result? The students raised 400 pounds of pet food in one week!

“We could not be more grateful for Ava and the generosity of the students, parents and teachers at Vieja Valley Elementary,” says Wendy Domanski, C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Community Programs & Volunteer Coordinator, who helped Vasquez prepare for the drive. “We’re also incredibly thankful for our business and nonprofit partners for joining forces to support those in need. Not to mention the thousands of individual donors who have contributed food and funds to help fellow community members.”

Ava Vasquez got to see her Kindergarten teacher Lynn Seigel-Boettner at Vieja Valley. (Photo: Winkface Photography)

When people live in poverty, so do their pets. Over the last 12 years, C.A.R.E.4Paws has worked to support low-income, senior, disabled and unhoused community members by providing access to critical services, such as veterinary care, spays and neuters and pet food. In fact, since the pandemic started, the nonprofit has tripled the number of pet families it supports annually to more than 20,000.

In 2021, C.A.R.E.4Paws assisted 10,000 dogs and cats with services through its Mobile Community Medicine & Spay/Neuter Outreach program. This year, the nonprofit has expanded its mobile clinic services to San Luis Obispo(SLO) County through a project called Snip & Chip SLO (, in collaboration with SLO County’s Animals in Need Fund and Animal Shelter Adoption Partners (ASAP).

“Thank you, C.A.R.E.4Paws, for helping all these animals in our community and for helping me make this food drive happen,” says Vasquez, who hopes that other students will follow her lead and host donation drives at their schools.

To learn more about C.A.R.E.4Paws’ pet food distribution services, go to For more information about C.A.R.E.4Paws, visit