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.
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.
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 a 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.
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! You can connect with them on Facebook.
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?