On Friday, January 15, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal presented a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition to Santa Barbara County nonprofit C.A.R.E.4Paws outside the organization’s mobile veterinary clinic at the Santa Barbara Fraternal Order of Eagles. The award acknowledges the critical services that C.A.R.E.4Paws has provided to the community since its founding in 2009 and the organization’s unparalleled efforts to support pet owners during COVID-19.
“Our goal is to reduce pet overpopulation and ensure that pets don’t suffer or end up in shelters due to lack of resources in the family,” says C.A.R.E.4Paws’ executive director and cofounder Isabelle Gullo. “It’s a tremendous honor for our team to receive this congressional award and recognition for our services, especially through the pandemic, when the community has needed us more than ever.”
On Friday, Rep. Carbajal handed the certificate to Gullo as well as C.A.R.E.4Paws’ cofounder and mobile clinic manager Carlos Abitia, board president Chris Harris and treasurer Kathryn Courain. He thanked the organization for the “work you do, day in and day out, for our four-legged friends and pet owners and, in particular, those who have less means and need the extra support to be able to care for their pets.” He added, “We all know that pets provide increased quality of life for anyone who is lucky enough to have a pet. What you do for our community is extraordinary. You do it graciously. You do it very generously and selflessly.”
As more Santa Barbara County pet owners than ever struggle to provide for their animals during COVID-19, C.A.R.E.4Paws stepped up its efforts significantly in March 2020 and has provided a record-number of services to those in need since. This includes 2,000 free spay and neuter surgeries performed in the mobile clinic last year, compared to 1,300 surgeries in 2019. It also includes the assistance with low-cost and free veterinary care for 1,800 dogs and cats, an increase from 1,170 in 2019. Last year, C.A.R.E.4Paws hosted 190 surgery days and low-cost vaccine clinics, up from 140 clinics the previous year.
Also in response to COVID-19, C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Companion Pet Assistance program has distributed more than four tons of pet food weekly since March 2020, assisting low-income, senior, disabled and homeless pet owners countywide. In comparison, the organization distributed about two tons of food total in 2019. C.A.R.E.4Paws distributes pet food at all of its mobile veterinary clinic days and participates in several weekly distribution events with agencies such as the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and People Helping People. Its Mobile Pet Meals team delivers pet food directly to seniors stuck in their homes and ensures that senior centers and low-income housing facilities have access to its services, too.
Additionally, C.A.R.E.4Paws provides support for pets of domestic violence survivors through its Safe Haven program, in partnership with Domestic Violence Solutions (DVS), and assists homeless community members with various wellness services, including dog grooming. The organization also still operates its Paws Up For Pets youth program, which promotes compassion and accountability for animals and empathy in our community as a whole.
The demand for C.A.R.E.4Paws’ services has been so significant that the organization doubled its budget in 2020 to more than $1 million. Thankfully, as expenses increased substantially, so did the support from donors, foundations, business and nonprofit partners as well as volunteers, says Gullo, adding that the Congressional award is a testament to how everyone is coming together to make a “pawsitive” impact.
She also notes that the demand for help is not diminishing and will not decrease for months to come. “We are working hard to raise funds so that we can continue assisting the community at this level in 2021 and beyond, if needed. If we don’t provide resources to those who are struggling, pets are more likely to suffer and at higher risk of ending up in shelters, which is heartbreaking for the whole family. The goal is to keep pets happy, healthy and homebound.”