The COVID-19 pandemic has created extreme challenges for two- and four-legged family members alike. Across the nation, the number of pets living in poverty has increased by more than 20 percent compared to pre-COVID estimates, according to an ASCPA study. To prevent suffering and ensure companion animals stay healthy and with their owners through these difficult times, nonprofit C.A.R.E.4Paws is rallying the community to support its Pet Food Donation Drive-Thru taking place on April 24 and 25, 10am to 2pm, with multiple drop-off locations available countywide.
On Saturday, April 24, supporters can drop off pet food and monetary donations at Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara, Deckers Brands in Goleta, and Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society & Dog Adoption Welfare Group (DAWG) in Buellton. On Sunday, April 25, drive-thru donations can be dropped off at Ryon Park in Lompoc and Elks Event Center in Santa Maria. Contributions of dog and cat food (unopened products only) can be dropped off in bins (to limit person-to-person contact). The C.A.R.E.4Paws team is of course on hand to help unload donations as needed.
C.A.R.E.4Paws, thanks to many of its longtime business and agency partners, has a dozen additional locations where donations can be dropped off April 24-25 or anytime before and after the official drive-thru event. This includes Dioji K-9 Resort & Athletic Club in Santa Barbara and Goleta, Plaza Deli, Montecito Pet Shop, Advanced Veterinary Specialists (AVS), Carpinteria’ Animal Medical Clinic, and Santa Barbara County Animal Services’ shelters in Santa Barbara, Lompoc and Santa Maria. All locations, addresses and more details are listed at care4paws.org/drive.
Since the start of COVID-19, C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Companion Pet Assistance (CPA) program has distributed more than four tons of pet food per week, assisting pet owners in need Santa Barbara Countywide. That’s roughly 400,000 pounds of pet food! Prior to the pandemic, the organization typically distributed two tons of food total in a year. This has increased C.A.R.E.4Paws’ pet food expenses to an unparalleled $10,000 monthly.
C.A.R.E.4Paws volunteers packaging pet food for distribution – Photo by WinkFace Photography
“A majority of pet owners can’t imagine going through these tough times without their four-legged friends,” says Isabelle Gullo, C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Executive Director and Cofounder. “Research shows it and we continue to hear it firsthand from clients, donors, social media followers and anyone in between.” But, Gullo says, when money is tight or nonexistent, the stress of not being able to care for a pet can be overwhelming. “Poverty severely impacts both people and pets, and it’s critical that we, as a community, work together to provide a safety net for those in need to prevent suffering and ensure animals can stay with their owners.”
C.A.R.E.4Paws distributes pet food during all of its mobile veterinary clinic days and participates in several weekly distribution events with agencies such as the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, People Helping People, and the senior centers of Los Alamos and Guadalupe. Its Mobile Pet Meals team delivers pet food directly to homebound seniors, senior centers and low-income housing facilities. Additionally, the nonprofit provides pet food and supplies at several Pet Resource Centers cohosted with agencies such as Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, Good Samaritan Shelters and Santa Barbara County Animal Services (SBCAS). Two new centers are launching by June 1 at SBCAS’ Santa Barbara and Lompoc shelters, adding to the center already operating successfully at SBCAS’ shelter in Santa Maria.
Beyond pet food, C.A.R.E.4Paws offers assistance with free and low-cost veterinary care for low-income pet owners through its Mobile Community Medicine & Spay/Neuter Outreach program. The organization’s mobile clinic works directly in the County’s most underserved areas and, since the pandemic started, C.A.R.E.4Paws has increased its number of clinic days from 140 to more than 200 per year. The number of clinic services provided has grown by 50 percent since 2019, including spay/neuter surgeries, vaccines, treatment of skin issues, dental procedures and mass removals.
Another critical service available to pet owners is C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Safe Haven program, launched in partnership with Domestic Violence Solutions (DVS) in January 2020. Pet owners exposed to domestic violence can seek safety with their pets at a DVS shelter and C.A.R.E.4Paws arranges for immediate, anonymous boarding or foster care for their animals.
On April 24 and 25, in addition to donating pet food and money at one of C.A.R.E.4Paws’ many drop-off locations, community members can visitcare4paws.org/drive to donate online and purchase food to be delivered from the organization’s Amazon Wish List. “The more pet food and money we raise, the greater of a safety net we can provide for community members who are struggling,” says Gullo.
For more details about how to support the Pet Food Donation Drive-Thru, go to care4paws.org/drive. For more information about C.A.R.E.4Paws and its services, visit care4paws.org or reach out via [email protected] or 805-968-2273.