by Dave Mason
Harley Grace, a Yorkshire terrier, loves to run circles around Luna, a Siberian husky.
“Luna acts like the mom to Harley,” Santa Maria resident Sal Medina told the News-Press.
The two dogs bring a lot of joy to Mr. Medina and his wife, Vivian, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s why the couple is grateful to C.A.R.E.4Paws, which delivered free dog food to them.
Mr. Medina, 81, explained that the couple is low-income. Without the help from C.A.R.E.4Paws, “we would have to give up the dogs probably,” he said.
As the pandemic continues, C.A.R.E.4Paws is providing more free pet food than ever before, said Isabelle Gullo, the Santa Barbara County nonprofit’s executive director and co-founder.
“I would say we give away at least two tons of pet food and cat litter every week,” Ms. Gullo told the News-Press.
“We’ve always had a pet food delivery program, but it’s expanded to something we’ve never experienced before,” she said. “We are helping probably 100 or so seniors weekly with pet meals.”
C.A.R.E.4Paws is distributing pet food and other supplies such as cat litter to low-income residents, seniors, people with disabilities and the homeless. Ms. Gullo said.
She noted the people served by C.A.R.E.4Paws are struggling more than ever to put food on their tables, let alone care for their pets.
“If we don’t reach out and provide a safety net, we’re going to see a lot more animals and the owners suffering,” Ms. Gullo said. She noted the goal is to keep pets with their owners and out of shelters.
In addition to deliveries, C.A.R.E.4Paws is helping about 500 pets a week through free food distribution at its mobile clinic and weekly events in Solvang, Guadalupe and Los Alamos, Ms. Gullo said. (See the FYI box for the schedule.) She added that C.A.R.E.4Paws is hoping to add other distribution events.
Ms. Gullo also noted C.A.R.E.4Paws is distributing pet food to the Bulleton Senior Center, which adds it to its food for humans in its Meals on Wheels program. And C.A.R.E.4Paws started a partnership last week with Meals on Wheels in Santa Barbara, which tells its clients about the pet food program.
C.A.R.E.4Paws also distributes free pet food at its resource centers, located at sites throughout the county. They include Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara, the Salvation Army, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and the PATH Santa Barbara homeless shelter.
“For most homeless pet owners, their pets are a lifeline, their sole companionship,” Ms. Gullo said.
Ms. Gullo also noted C.A.R.E.4Paws began collaborations during the pandemic with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and the 211 hotline. “We get referrals for seniors who need pet food delivered to them as well as human food.”
Other partnerships include ones with Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People and the Los Alamos Foundation. (See the FYI box.)
Ms. Gullo added that C.A.R.E4Paws provides help with affordable, critical veterinary care.
And the nonprofit helps pet owners affected by domestic violence through Safe Haven, a program that C.A.R.E4Paws launched Feb. 1 in partnership with Domestic Violence Solutions for Santa Barbara County. C.A.R.E.4Paws arranges for temporary foster homes or boarding for pets so owners don’t have to leave their pets behind or stay in a violent relationship because of an animal.
Ms. Gullo explained how the nonprofit has improved that assistance.
Previously, the nonprofit responded only to referrals from Domestic Violence Solutions, she said. “Now people can contact us directly for help.” (Go to care4paws.org/safehaven.)
Ms. Gullo added those affected by domestic violence also can get C.A.R.E.4Paws’ help by contacting services such as the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office’s Victims-Witness Assistance Program.
As C.A.R.E4Paws works to keep pets with their owners, the nonprofit welcomes donations of pet food. Ms. Gullo said there’s an Amazon wish list at care4paws.org.
“But I would say the biggest way people can help is through monetary donations that we can then use to buy pet food and supplies,” she said.
Ms. Gullo noted C.A.R.E.4Paws last week received a $15,000 donation from Montecito couple Heather and Tom Sturgess.
Ms. Gullo said the money went for the nonprofit’s purchase at Lemos Feed & Pet Supply. She added that the Santa Barbara County business provided significant discounts and its own donations of food, which greatly increased the total amount.
The C.A.R.E4Paws executive director and co-founder noted that pets today are providing much needed emotional support.
“It’s really important that we keep pets with their owners throughout the pandemic.”
C.A.R.E.4Paws offers pet food, cat litter and other supplies for pet owners in need. Go to care4paws.org/petassistance, which features pet food drop-off locations.
Pet food and supplies are also given away at C.A.R.E.4Paws’ mobile clinic. See the schedule at care4paws.org/clinicservices.
The food and supplies are also distributed from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays at Mission Santa Inés, 1760 Mission Drive, Solvang, in a partnership with Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People. Another distribution takes place 1 to 3 p.m. Thursdays at the Guadalupe Senior Center, 4545 10th St., Guadalupe, in a partnership with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. And a third distribution is set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the Los Alamos Valley Senior & Community Center, 690 Bell St., Los Alamos, in a partnership with the Los Alamos Foundation.
C.A.R.E.4Paws also provides pet food for the Buellton Senior Center, which distributes it along with food for humans in its Meals on Wheels program. And C.A.R.E.4Paws has started a partnership with Meals on Wheels in Santa Barbara.
To make a donation, go to care4paws.org/help. Donations of pet food are welcome, but C.A.R.E.4Paws prefers monetary contributions.
In addition to pet assistance, C.A.R.E.4Paws helps pet owners affected by domestic violence. For more information, go to care4paws.org/safehaven.
For more information, contact the nonprofit at 805-968-2273 or [email protected].