California adoption events send dogs and cats home

Smiling person holding a large puppy outside some dog kennels
Collaboration among Best Friends, the local community, and central California animal shelters leads to happy new homes for 86 dogs and cats at summer events.
By Liz Finch

Summer is kitten and puppy season all across the country. And when you add the influx of babies to the steady flow of adult cats and dogs that never seems to let up, it’s easy to see why this is the busiest season for animal shelters and rescue groups. That’s why Best Friends Animal Society supports shelters across the country not only with spay/neuter programs to prevent unplanned litters, but also with adoptions to get those adorable pups and kitties into homes quickly. Recently, more than 80 dogs and cats from busy California shelters got a little love — and new homes.

“Organizations throughout California are particularly overwhelmed right now, especially because there are more dogs coming into shelters than getting adopted,” says Chantel Feola, Best Friends’ community engagement manager. “Any way we can help move animals into adoption, transport, or foster situations is a win.”

It was an all-hands-on-deck effort for Best Friends staff on the West Coast to support adoption events at a handful of shelters in central California: Kern County Animal Services, Bakersfield Animal Care Center, and Fresno Animal Center.

“Together we designed special marketing materials, planned logistics, covered the cost of general event supplies, put together gift bags for adopters, and paid for food trucks to be present on the day of the various events,” says Megan Smith, Best Friends national events specialist. “Staff also traveled to the shelters to physically help with the events.”

Lulu joins new family at last

It was no surprise to see plenty of cute kittens and puppies get adopted, but what meant the most to everyone involved was seeing some of the longest-stay dogs join loving families. One of those was Lulu the shepherd mix, who had been charming the staff at Fresno Animal Center for months with her sweet demeanor and ability to get along with other dogs.

“For whatever reason, no one had picked out this great little dog to take home with them in all that time,” says Janine Takasugi, Fresno’s lifesaving outcomes manager. “While someone spotted Lulu online a month before the event and came to meet her, they weren’t able to adopt her until they moved into their new house, so she was still at the shelter. That’s never ideal.”

It just so happened that the day the family was finally ready to welcome Lulu into their home was the day of the Fresno event. So Lulu went home at last, and Fresno Animal Center celebrated her departure along with that of 44 other cats and dogs who went to new homes or were transferred to rescue groups that day.

[Animal shelters are partnering with a purpose]

“Eight dogs got adopted, 15 went into foster-to-adopt situations, five went to foster homes, and four were returned to their owners that day,” Janine says. “For cats, we had three adoptions, two who went to foster-to-adopt situations, and two who went to foster (homes). We also had the participation of two other Fresno-area nonprofits, Valley Animal Center and Kirkland Foundation, who adopted two dogs and four cats combined. Our staff was so excited about the total number of animals who left the shelter, but Lulu's adoption was extra emotional because she had waited so long to go home."

Kern County Animal Services and Bakersfield Animal Care Center also fared well at their events. Bakersfield had 26 animals go to new homes or rescue groups, and 17 dogs and cats left Kern County that day.

“Best Friends covered the cost of city licenses for the dogs adopted from Bakersfield,” Chantel says. “And at the end of the day, our teams pulled four dogs from Bakersfield and five cats and two dogs from Kern County and brought them back to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Los Angeles.”

Alesha Davidson, Best Friends strategist for the Pacific region, says, “These events were great opportunities for us to help in the region by collaborating to save more animals.”

Striving for success through community involvement

Alesha adds that the events were also good opportunities to talk to community members about how they could help their local shelters and let them know that their shelters need help. For Courtney Clerico, a volunteer with Bakersfield who supported the events by posting about them on her Instagram Live, it’s that outreach element that means the most. Getting more people involved — as well as saving animals directly via her small nonprofit organization, Foster Tales — helps her feel personally responsible for helping in the community.

“There are so many dogs who need help here, and I find purpose by volunteering and running my nonprofit,” says Courtney. “I wish more people understood the crisis at hand and would get involved. Whether you are fostering, adopting, or networking animals online with pictures and video, you can be part of the solution.

[Working together for pets at California shelter]

“Even if you can’t do those things, you can attend leadership meetings to effect change,” Courtney adds. “Tell your public leaders that you find the current state of our shelter system unacceptable. Tell them to invest more funding into the shelter system and spay/neuter efforts. Use your voice to fight for those that have none.”

There are at least 86 animals who — if they did have a voice — would likely be expressing thanks to the hundreds of people who fought for them and played critical roles in helping them get to where they are today: in loving homes.

Multiple people in a outside corridor looking into dog kennels
Photo by Lori Fusaro

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