BY CALEB WISEBLOOD
Low-income, senior, and homeless community members can receive a range of affordable walk-in services for their dogs and cats at the C.A.R.E.4Paws mobile clinic, which hosts its inaugural Furever Valentine’s Pet Wellness and Adoption Day on Feb. 14 and an additional clinic on Feb. 21 in Santa Maria.
“While income level is by no means an indicator of how much pets are loved by their families, we do know how hard it can be for many low-income pet owners to provide even basic services for their animals,” Isabelle Gullo, executive director of C.A.R.E.4Paws told the Sun.
Gullo co-founded C.A.R.E.4Paws in 2009 while volunteering at the county Animal Services shelter in Santa Barbara. Many animals were put to sleep due to lack of space, Gullo explained.
“We were thrilled every time a dog found a home, but that dog’s spot would be immediately be replaced by another, or three more. It was heartbreaking to see so many animals ending up abandoned,” Gullo said. “I figured we could either continue spending all of our time caring for the shelter animals, or help prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place by addressing what was happening in the community.”
The initial goal behind C.A.R.E.4Paws was to tackle these issues by providing free spaying and neutering for dogs and cats to prevent overpopulation and offering low-cost vaccine clinics for families in need and other disadvantaged pet owners.
In the last 10 years, the organization has also launched a bilingual community outreach program to create awareness about critical pet care and an educational course for children intended to inspire accountability and compassion for animals from an early age.
Today, the shelter Gullo used to volunteer for houses an average of 25 adoptable dogs, compared to the average of 120 dogs in 2009.
“I’m proud of the impact C.A.R.E.4Paws has had on curbing shelter overpopulation. As shelters house fewer local animals, these facilities are now in a position to take in animals from shelters outside of our county, even outside of California,” Gullo said. “This wasn’t an option before shelter intake numbers started dropping.”
Vaccines, health exams, nail trims, flea treatment, microchips, and other services range in cost from $10 to $25 at the C.A.R.E.4Paws mobile clinics, but current pet owners aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of the clinic’s Valentine’s Day event
“This is the first time we’ve expanded an event to include adoptable animals,” Gullo said. “We’re excited that our wonderful partners for the event agreed to participate right away. I’m grateful for our longtime partnerships with local shelters, rescue groups, pet service providers, and human welfare agencies.”
While the animal shelter will provide adoptable dogs at the event, C.A.R.E4Paws is also collaborating with Project PetSafe, which will facilitate dog license sales, and That’s FETCH, which will offer toys and treats to visiting animals.
Furever Valentine’s Pet Wellness and Adoption Day takes place on Feb. 14 at Elwin Mussell Senior Center, located at 510 Park Ave., Santa Maria. C.A.R.E.4Paws hosts its next regular clinic on Feb. 21 at Santa Maria Eagles, located at 668 S. College Drive, Santa Maria. Visit care4paws.org for more information.