OC Shelter Partners – Helping People Keep Their Pets


The car comes to a stop, the back door opens and in reaches a woman’s shaking hand to pick up the carrier that’s buckled in on the back seat. Inside, a kitty meows and scratches at the carrier door, unsure of what is happening. Tears fill the woman’s eyes as she turns and faces the shelter, ashamed, but uncertain of what else to do.

Enter OC Shelter Partners, an all-volunteer 501(c)3 non-profit that works to keep pets with their people. Founded in November 2015, the group has already kept over 1,000 animals from entering the shelter.

OC Shelter Partners is the shelter intervention program for Orange County Animal Care in Orange, California. And with an office located at the shelter (although they are independent of the shelter), the group is perfectly positioned to help counsel pet parents and keep pets out of the shelter to begin with.

Founder and president, Liz, has been in pet rescue for over 20 years and is passionate about helping animals. Let’s meet Liz now and learn more about OC Shelter Partners.

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A Conversation with Liz

What is your group’s mission?
We help pets and pet families stay together. We provide resources and education so that pets can stay with their families. When it is not possible to keep the pet in the home, we work hard to get the pet into a rescue with one of our many rescue partners.

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Why was OC Shelter Partners started and what inspired you?
Orange County Shelter Partners was started because there is a very real need to educate and attempt to help those who are looking to surrender their pets. Often, the reason is a temporary problem like a small life shake-up or financial reasons. That’s where we come in. We help provide pet food, medical care, training or other solutions. It’s all about helping pets stay in good homes. In the event that it is impossible for a pet to stay in a home, we network with our pre-approved rescue partners to get the pet into a rescue.

I was inspired by hearing about the few shelter intervention programs that have been running throughout the country. A group of hardworking OC rescuers and networkers introduced the program to the shelter administrators. I formed OC Shelter Partners, wrote up a formal program outline, submitted it to Orange County and we were approved! As mentioned above, quite often, the reasons people show up at the shelter to relinquish their pets are for a temporary problem. They want to keep their pet but they lack knowledge, need a tiny bit of help or some advice. That’s what I do. I offer real solutions. To date, the program has helped almost 1,000 dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, turtles, goats – you name it – stay in their homes.

Do you find that most pet parents are willing to work with you? 
Yes. Pet parents often show up at the shelter because they don’t know what else to do. I cannot tell you how many times a simple conversation with a dose of tough love has made 2016-10-03_ocshelter_02a huge difference. I keep in touch with these pet owners and they all are so thankful they kept their pets.

Are you currently looking for volunteers? 
Yes! We are always looking for fosters to help with the Kitten Bottle Feeding Program, fosters for dogs for our rescue partners, and we also need volunteers who have experience with fundraising and grant writing.

Is there anything else we should know about OC Shelter Partners? 
This past summer, we started a Kitten Bottle Feeding Program. When someone brings kittens under two pounds to the shelter, they are euthanized. There’s no one to care for them there. I decided something needed to be done about that so I quickly started up a program and recruited several amazing foster homes to take in these kittens and get them up to weight so they could be adopted. Not surprisingly, we have had many “foster failures.” The kittens are so cute, they’re irresistible. I even brought home a kitten and he is amazing! Close to 130 kittens have avoided going into the shelter.

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Thank you to Liz for sharing with us about OC Shelter Partners. The work that the group is doing to keep pets with their people is wonderful!

If you would like to contact OC Shelter Partners or need their assistance, they respond to messages left via their website and return voicemails left throughout the week. They also have office hours at the shelter and you can contact OC Shelter Partners to find out more.


And so the woman walked back to her car, the pet carrier heavy in her hand, with the weight of her kitty still stowed safely inside. Although kitty was still meowing and scratching at the carrier door, the woman held her head high, smiling, now having a plan in place, all thanks to a volunteer working in a shelter intervention program.

Does your local shelter have an intervention program like this?

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42 thoughts on “OC Shelter Partners – Helping People Keep Their Pets

  1. this is a fabulous idea! Kudos!!! We have a “pet pantry” program here which distributes pet food to families who feel as if they can’t keep their pets due to not being able to afford food. Love programs like these!

  2. I absolutely love this! We have a few pet pantries starting up here to help those in need, but I love the idea of an intervention right at the point of surrender. Many people don’t know there are resources out there for them. Thanks for sharing Liz’s story!

  3. I am so happy to read that the young kittens are being saved and that so many cats are able to stay in their homes with help from this group.

  4. Wonderful organization! We wish people wouldn’t feel ashamed when taking their pet to a shelter. In most cases, they are offering their pet a better, more stable life, and we love there is an organization that can offer support and advice to those in need.

  5. we LOVE hearing about programs like this. sometimes it can be a simple lending hand to keep pets and families together….it is important to remember that not every surrender is “voluntary”

  6. Wow, what a wonderful organization! It’s great that they are located right there at the shelter, too, so they can truly “intervene” with people who may not know about them. We don’t have anything like that in my county, but the volunteers at the shelter do try to work with and help people keep their pets in situations where the people want to keep them.

  7. That’s fantastic! What a wonderful program that fills such an important need. Big paws up to Liz and OC Shelter Partners!

  8. I absolutely LOVE everything about this program. A program called CRISP just started here and it sounds very similar. CRISP is made up of representatives of a bunch of different rescues – so it’s basically a coalition. They are just starting, but OC Shelter Partners sounds like it would be a great model for CRISP. I will pass on this information.

  9. Dat’s pawsum. Wish we had somethin’ like dat everywhere. Unfurtunately all da shelters ’round here kill kittens dat can’t eat on their own, and sometimes they let them starve. It’s such a sad situation ’round here. Ignorance is certainly not bliss. Anyways, we’ve gotten off track here. Great post, fanks fur sharin’.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Raena

  10. What a wonderful program! I love the idea of helping people through the difficult times so they can keep their pets. It would be so hard to have to relinquish a pet just because you are between jobs or going through a personal crisis! I’m glad they have taken up this mission! We could use more groups like this.

  11. That is amazing, we love peeps like this, shame there aren’t more of them in the world!

    Such a great post, thanks so much fur sharing :D

    Purrs

    Basil & Co xox

  12. That’s a great program! We don’t have anything like that in Belgium. It’s awesome that they educate people and encourage them to stay together. There is no shame in asking for help :)! Although, some people don’t deserve pets whatsoever!

  13. What a wonderful organisation. Often the reason people are ready to surrender their pet is something small, easily fixable they just don’t realise it. I wish more shelters offered a pet parent owner retention program. If people had a place to turn to for help, far fewer animals would have their lives put at risk in shelters.

  14. What a great organization! Sometimes all it takes is just a little help and support to make things right for pets and humans. I have to find out if there is anything like this here where I am.

  15. What great work OC Shelter Partners does! I wish I could join the baby cat bottle feeding club, em, I mean, volunteers. I was just reading about hand rearing kittens vs mama raised kittens and it would be interesting (my word for fun) to raise them like a mama cat. Great work, OCSP! Keep it up! Awsome interview :)

  16. What a great program! It’s so great that one of their main plans is to keep pets with their families. I’m not familiar with a program like this around here.

  17. great idea and sorely needed. We have something similar here that helps women in abusive relationships find temporary safe homes for their pets since most women shelters don’t take them. I love organizations that try and keep the pets with their owners. kudos.

  18. I love this! The idea of keeping pets in their homes (good homes) through assistance and education is such a wonderful thing! I agree, often people feel they HAVE to give up their pets – most often due to a financial crisis. Thankful for programs like this and hope to see more in the future.

  19. Shelter intervention programs are so wonderful! Our county shelter in Phoenix started a program like this shortly before I moved back to NY. It’s heartwarming to hear how many people and pets Liz and her organization have helped!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  20. thanks for profiling this group. i’m happy to learn of their existence. i’ve done some volunteer work with the shelter in Orange and it was DEPRESSING.. so crowded and out of date (I live in Long Beach and we’re fortunate to have upgraded to a state-of-the-art rescue facility). I’m glad to know people are working to keep pets from ending up in the shelter unnecessarily!!

Any thoughts to share?