The Humane Society of Ventura County
By Misty Hall
If you’ve ever had a pet, you know that after a long day there’s nothing better than coming home to a furry friend who is absolutely ecstatic to see you. Big sloppy puppy kisses, a purring cat rubbing against your shins, a whinny coming from the barn … the connection and love goes both ways, sure. But if you ask me, we humans are getting the better end of the deal.
The good folks at the Humane Society of Ventura County would wholeheartedly agree. The Ojai-based nonprofit has been pairing pets and people since 1932, when a group of dedicated locals recognized the growing human population of our region would naturally correlate with a growing pet population. Today, the organization offers a host of services that go far beyond pet adoptions. Lost or found a pet? Contact the Humane Society. Need to update shots, or get your pet spayed/neutered, or microchipped? Contact the Humane Society. Need to report an instance of possible animal abuse or neglect? Contact the Humane Society’s humane officers. Going through a rough patch and need some help obtaining pet food? The Humane Society has your back. They also have summer camp programs, a foster pet program, pet therapy programs, and myriad volunteer opportunities.
Over the last couple of years, another HSVC service — its ability to house pets during natural disasters — has made more headlines over any other. The Thomas, Hill, and Woolsey Fires moved fast and destroyed vast swaths of land throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. But despite the chaos and panic, the HSVC was ready to help those who couldn’t take their pets with them as they evacuated their homes.
“We opened the shelter, 24/7, to accept evacuated animals,” said Greg Cooper, director of community outreach. Staff and dedicated volunteers, he added, were actually sleeping at the shelter, ready to help anytime someone came in. Within a few days of the start of the
Thomas Fire, the HSVC was caring for more than 300 evacuated animals — on top of the 90-odd animals already in their care.
Not only did HSVC open its doors to dogs, cats, horses, birds, livestock, and even tortoises, they also deployed equine rescue teams. “We mainly went out to families who called us for help,” said Cooper. But when things got worse in the Malibu area during the Woolsey Fire, “We just sent teams out, and dispatched them from there,” Cooper recalled. With teams and trailers, they were able to safely evacuate horses.
But after all, as Cooper pointed out, these types of services are part of the HSVC’s mission. “We didn’t charge the public one cent,” he pointed out. They transported pets to the shelter and offered free food, ID tags, crates, cages, blankets, and whatever else the staff had on hand to help the region’s pet owners throughout the disasters. But the community stepped up for the HSVC, too. “Scores of volunteers showed up,” Cooper recalled. “Some were unannounced, and some came from out of state! They just wanted to help. They did all kinds of tasks for us,” Cooper said. “The community outpouring of support was just tremendous. Financially, they were very, very giving, which allowed us to pay for all of this on the back end.” In-kind donations — food, hay, leashes, and other useful items — also showed up on their doorstep. “World Central Kitchen was cooking meals for first responders, and they started bringing us meals too!” Cooper said.
Now that those disasters are behind us, the Humane Society is back to business as usual. Though they are still home to a few displaced pets, their focus has shifted to a new initiative for 2019: the spaying and neutering of pets. “We’re trying to make sure all the pets out there are wanted,” Cooper said. The way HSVC does that is through its low-cost spay and neuter clinic. Have an animal that needs to be fixed? Just call HSVC and set up a time for their professional veterinary staff to do a spay or neuter on-site, and affordably, too. This year-long effort will likely culminate in a fundraiser in the fall.
For those who want to help now, though, there is a robust volunteer program. Want to play with dogs, cats, and the HSVC’s other animals? Just call them (805-646-6505) and schedule a time to go through the training process. After a few classes, you’ll be ready to drop in as a volunteer to walk and play with the pets available for adoption.
“Socializing, especially for dogs, is important,” Cooper said. “The more socialized they become, the more adoptable they become.”Another great program the HSVC is working on: a pet food bank. Currently, anyone who needs it can come to the Humane Society and get pet food, free of charge. They’re working to expand that program in the future by offering satellite food stations. They’re piloting the program in Ojai, with a dispenser, food buckets, and scoops at Help of Ojai’s Community Assistance Program (C.A.P.) office. “Depending on the success of that program, we’re going to start pushing out into the rest of the county,” said Cooper.
The HSVC does all of this, and a lot more, with zero funding outside of donations and grants. “We are a private nonprofit,” clarified Cooper. “We don’t receive any funding from the county, state, or federal government, nor any funding from the national organization (Humane Society of the United States) … The big misconception is that we are part of the county. But we’re not part of Ventura County Animal Services. We share and coordinate efforts, but our only location is here in Ojai.”
Want to volunteer, donate, or adopt a pet? Visit hsvc.org. You can also search for the Humane Society of Ventura County’s wish list on Amazon.com, where you can purchase needed items and have them sent straight to the HSVC.