C.A.R.E.4Paws is the only animal welfare organization on the Central Coast that works directly in the community to provide critical wellness services to the pet families that need it the most. 

By Lauren Hodgins | Special to Noozhawk

June 13, 2022 | 1:45 p.m.
Noozhawk’s Four-Legged Friends and More Guide is officially here! We have sniffed out local businesses that best cater to the needs, health, comfort, training, exercise, and general welfare of our furry companions!

To provide a closer look at the pet establishments in Santa Barbara County, Noozhawk has conducted a series of interviews with representatives of local businesses for this year’s Four-Legged Friends and More Guide that will be sure to have your tail wagging.

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Isabelle Gullo, Executive Director at C.A.R.E.4Paws, to learn more about the services this nonprofit provides!


Question: What is the name of your business or practice?

Answer: C.A.R.E.4Paws.

Q: What is the mission behind your business?

A: C.A.R.E.4Paws is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the mission to reduce pet overpopulation, keep animals out of shelters and improve quality of life for pet families in need.

C.A.R.E.4Paws Distributing Pet Food

Q: What types of animals does your business cater to?

A: Dogs and cats.

Q: Can you describe the services or products your business offers?

A: Our largest program is our Mobile Community Medicine & Spay/Neuter Outreach, which provides critical pet wellness services, including free and low-cost spays/neuters, veterinary care and vaccine clinics, in our two 26-foot mobile veterinary units, the only ones of their kind on California’s Central Coast.

C.A.R.E.4Paws’ other service components include our Companion Pet Assistance program, which provides free pet food and supplies to pet owners in need at every mobile clinic event and at several Pet Resource Centers countywide; and Safe Haven, a program that assists domestic violence survivors with temporary shelter for their companion animals.

We launched Safe Haven in 2020 in partnership with DomesticViolence Solutions for Santa Barbara County as we realized that so many domestic violence survivors either stay in an abusive relationship because of a beloved family pet, or they are forced to leave their pets behind, which leads to more suffering for the animals. Our program allows survivors to seek safety from abuse without having to fear for the well-being of their four-legged family members.

We also provide humane education through Paws Up For Pets, teaching middle-school aged children to be accountable for their pets and compassionate towards animals and all living beings.

Q: What makes your organization unique?

A: C.A.R.E.4Paws is the only animal welfare organization on the Central Coast that works directly in the community to provide critical wellness services to the pet families that need it the most.

Since our founding in 2009, we have concentrated our efforts on Santa Barbara County’s most resource-deprived neighborhoods, serving low-income, senior, disabled and unhoused community members. In 2022, we have broadened our reach into San Luis Obispo (SLO) County through a program called Snip & Chip SLO.

Every year, C.A.R.E.4Paws evolves to make sure we’re meeting the community’s needs. For example, when the pandemic started, we began distributing several tons of pet food weekly, compared to two tons distributed (total) in a typical pre-pandemic year. Between March 2020 and March 2022, we provided more than 850,000 pounds of free pet food to prevent suffering and pet homelessness.

We have also increased the number of mobile clinic services provided annually by 50%, assisting more than 10,000 dogs and cats per year with vaccines, spays/neuters and medical care. Overall, we have tripled the number of pet families we help annually to ensure that animals stay healthy and with the people who love them.

C.A.R.E.4Paws is also unique in that we collaborate with dozens of other agencies and organizations to make sure we can help as many pet families in need as possible. Apart from our partnership with Animal Services in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties as well as all local animal shelters and rescue groups, we work closely with human welfare agencies, pet services providers and other businesses.

Q: What training, education and experience do you and your staff have? Do you hold any professional certifications?

A: We have a highly trained veterinary team that runs our Mobile Community Medicine & Spay/Neuter Outreach operations, including a veterinarian who’s worked in the field for more than 40 years. Having operated C.A.R.E.4Paws for 13 years, myself and my team have all gained tremendous experience in the animal welfare industry and when it comes to working with pet families in need.

Q: What is your level of expertise regarding pet health and behavior?

A: Our team has worked in the community since 2009 to help thousands of animals with a variety of services, including vaccine clinics, spaying and neutering, medical care, grooming (for dogs of the unsheltered) and behavioral training.

Q: How do you manage behavioral problems?

A: As part of our Companion Pet Assistance program, as funds allow, we offer free dog behavioral training for low-income pet families to make sure dogs don’t end up in a shelter due to behavioral issues that the owners cannot manage on their own.

Kittens at the C.A.R.E.4Paws Mobile Clinic

Q: Are you currently accepting new clients?

A: We are always here for pet families in need. However, C.A.R.E.4Paws is not a business or a regular veterinary clinic, so we’re not designed to be someone’s permanent veterinarian, for example. Our goal is to support pet owners going through a tough time.

Q:  Can you name a few common reasons animals end up in shelters?

A: Many pets end up homeless due to lack of resources to provide proper pet care, because of behavioral issues that are hard to manage, or due to pet overpopulation, issues that C.A.R.E.4Paws’ address with our free and low-cost services. Lack of pet-friendly housing is another big problem that contribute to animals ending up in shelters.

Sometimes pet owners need help temporarily as they are going through a transition, whether it’s hospitalization, a move or rehab, for example. C.A.R.E.4Paws tries to assist whenever possible, but we need more funding and foster families to be able to help on a greater scale. It is too large of an issue for one organization to tackle, especially as we don’t have a space to house animals. Our community as a whole needs to work together to come up with solutions that keep more pets out of shelters and with the people who love them.

Q: How do you help make your client feel at ease leaving their pet in your care?

A: We have a very kind and compassionate staff and volunteer team, and that goes a long way when it comes to making clients feel comfortable leaving their pets with us. It’s also important to let people know what to expect through the process and from the services they receive.

Q: Are you a nonprofit? Do you accept donations?

A: C.A.R.E.4Paws is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and we do accept donations.

Q: How do you keep the public informed about your business or service(s)?

A: We have an informative website and very active Facebook and Instagram pages. We also partner with dozens of other agencies and local business that help spread the word to those in need.

Q: What is the typical cost of your service(s) or product(s)? Do you offer any payment plans or discounts?

A: Most of our services are offered for free or at low-cost for low-income pet families.

Q: What are your hours of operation?

A: We operate our mobile units four, five or more times per week throughout Santa Barbara County and about twice a month in San Luis Obispo County, for now.

Q: What is one fun fact about your business?

A: C.A.R.E.4Paws is not a shelter or rescue group. We work to reduce pet overpopulation and keep pets out of shelters.

Q: Is there anything you would like to tell our readers that was not mentioned above?

A: In the spirit of preventing suffering and keeping pet families together, we’re inviting the animal-loving community to join C.A.R.E.4Paws, Domestic Violence Solutions and Elings Park for our inaugural Walk Against Abuse on Sunday, September 18.

The event takes place at Elings Park from 11am to 2pm and supports C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Safe Haven program, which provides temporary foster care or boarding for pets of domestic violence survivors. Learn more about and sign up for the walk, with or without a dog!

Click here to learn more about C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Walk Against Abuse.