Saving furry friends with flare, creativity

Remy (A5322036) is a 11-year-old tuxedo cat available for adoption at the Castaic Animal Care Center. Courtesy of Castaic volunteer, Joel Rosario

With approximately 6.5 million pets entering animal shelters nationwide each year, volunteers at rescues across the country are constantly searching for homes.

The sheer volume of pets, especially after recent emergencies like the series of fires in the region, have prompted local animal rescues to create new, innovative ways to promote their adoptable animals.

Shelter Hope Pet Shop, located in the Westfield Valencia Town Center, uses various events throughout the year to bring people in, such as its Shelter Hope Kitty Cafe.

“It lets the cats intermingle, while people can really immerse themselves and get to know the cats,” founder Dani Caouette said.

In addition, Shelter Hope puts on numerous “Kids Night Outs” with varying themes throughout the year, which allow parents a night off while kids get to have some fun surrounded by animals.

Tux, an eight-year-old male lounges at the Shelter Hope Pet Shop’s Cat Cafe at the Westfield Valencia Town Center. Cory Rubin/The Signal

“The kids go crazy, they are just so excited,” she said. “They are our word-of-mouth. They go back and tell their friends and family, then parents will come back and adopt.”

Rescues on the Runway similarly uses events to promote its animals, such as its annual fashion show fundraiser, putting models on the runway with rescues. Attendees can also walk their pets on the runway, competing for trophies and prizes in various categories, such as Best Bark or Best Tail Wag.

Founder Mardi Rivetti strategically schedules this event in November to raise awareness for her adoptable animals during the holidays.

“Pets are dumped into shelters at the highest point at the beginning of summer and before Christmas,” Rivetti said, adding that it coincides with peak travel seasons. “Because shelters are overflowing this time of year, I try to use this particular event as a celebration of rescued animals and a chance for them to find a home for the holidays.”

Arlene Valenzuela, an “inmate” volunteering at “A Day in their Paws” stands in a cage with one of the dogs at the Brittany Foundation’s facility in Aqua Ducle. September 28, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal

Each year, the Brittany Foundation Animal Sanctuary puts on its “A Day in their Paws” fundraiser, in which volunteers spend 24 hours “on lockdown” with a shelter dog in their kennel to raise awareness on how they live each day before they’re adopted while they raise funds for the sanctuary by getting sponsors to “bail them out” at $1 per minute.

Other events at the sanctuary are kid-focused, working to educate kids on animals while teaching them the values of volunteerism early on, according to founder Nancy Anderson.

“Kids are going to be the future of whether we have responsible pet ownership or not,” Anderson added.

Though Mutt Match L.A. gets a majority of their adoption referrals either by word of mouth or by attending adoption events, they also get people’s attention with their unique truck: Daisy Doodle’s Canine Confections, a dog treat food truck.

Ginger and Baker look up from their enclosure at Shelter Hope Pet Shop at the Valencia Town Center. Cory Rubin/The Signal

“We actually have L.A.’s first and only treat truck that’s rescue-owned and -operated,” founder Sheilah Aragon said, adding that its goal is community outreach. “It’s a great way to lure people in and educate them about the importance of spay and neuter and adoptions.”

Like Mutt Match L.A., many of these rescues participate in various off-site events, such as Bark for Life, which helps to get the animals out in front of the community.

While many also use online pet adoption sites where they can post photos and bios of all their adoptable animals, others, like the Castaic Animal Care Center, instead turn to social media to do the same.

The center’s Facebook and Instagram accounts are entirely volunteer-run with the help of their social media team, Denise Martin, Julian Moser and Terra DiSpirito, who have come up with a system to ensure that each animal that comes into the center gets their time in the limelight

Tigger (A5012433) is a 3-year-old cat available for adoption at the Castaic Animal Care Center. Courtesy of Castaic volunteer, Joel Rosario

“It’s all about teamwork,” DiSpirito said. “We have a really strong team working together to get these animals promoted because we love them.”

About a dozen volunteers help to take photographs and videos of the animals and write their bios, then the social media team then works to get every animal posted as soon as possible, typically within a week of them arriving at the center.

While they try to make each post unique, choosing clear photos that help to showcase each animal’s personality, all posts contain the adoptable animal’s ID number, which viewers can then click on to see updates and follow the animal’s story.

The team spends at least two hours each day, replying to questions and comments. “We try really hard to answer every question and be active, and we have a direct connection with the staff to answer any questions we can’t.”

Monico, a 2-year old MinPin mix sits on a bench at Shelter Hope Pet Shop at the Valencia Town Center. Cory Rubin/The Signal

The center has seen a significant increase in adoptions since creating the accounts, according to DiSpirito. “More have found out about us through social media, and we’re reaching a lot of people.”

One particular pup had such a following that he became famous in the community. Tank, a 6-year-old pitbull-mix, was surrendered because of his bad habit of running away. After months and more than 100 Instagram posts, Tank was adopted into a loving home.

“None of us would give up on him, and we promoted him so hard it literally made him famous,” DiSpirito added, laughing. “Now he has the best life.”

Shelter Hope Pet Shop is located at 24201 Valencia Blvd., no. 1335. Mutt Match L.A. is located at 16654 Soledad Canyon Road, Santa Clarita. The Castaic Animal Care Center’s Facebook and Instagram can be found @castaicanimalslaco. The Brittany Foundation can be reached at [email protected] or 661-713-5240. Rescues on the Runway can be reached at [email protected] or 661-305-5700.

Trevor, a 3-year old Patterson Terrior mix looks at tyhe camera at Shelter Hope Pet Shop at the Valencia Town Center. Cory Rubin/The Signal

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