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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 6:11 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Dogs and Cats, and Their Well-Being, Come First at Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society

From preventative health care to spay-neutering services to the adoption option, shelter’s pet cause is all about the animals

Dr. Lindsey Rynk, the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society’s veterinarian, gives Simona the miniature poodle some hands-on attention during a checkup. Click to view larger
Dr. Lindsey Rynk, the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society’s veterinarian, gives Simona the miniature poodle some hands-on attention during a checkup. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

[Noozhawk’s note: This article is the second in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation. Click here for the first article.]

At the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society’s animal shelter, staff members and volunteers share a combined office-workroom-lunchroom with roving animals that include a three-legged Chihuahua and an occasionally surly cat.

Next to a desk, a small refrigerator is labeled “Human Food Only.” The 4-square-feet of floor under the appliance may be the only space in the more than 4,000-square-foot shelter where animals don’t get first priority.

Even the caretaker’s trailer was remodeled this spring to take half the space for housing cats, not people, after the shelter’s population exploded during “kitten season.”

With about 100 volunteers and 10 employees, the nonprofit Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society continues a 40-year mission of trying to control the dog and cat population, improve the lives and health of pets that are lost or abandoned, and enhance the lives of people by matching them as well as possible with pet companions through the adoption process.

First comes the preventive medicine — an effort to control the pet population through education, as well as with spaying and neutering.

Shelter director Emily Grossheider says she’s constantly amazed at comments by even the most educated people when their pets are suddenly and mysteriously pregnant.

“People will say they didn’t realize a 6-month-old cat could get pregnant, or that sibling cats will impregnate each other,” she told Noozhawk.

“Or they’ll be surprised and say, ‘My cat is mostly an indoor cat and never gets farther than the back yard.’”

Fully 50 percent of pet births in the United States are not wanted, she adds, wondering aloud how American society would react if that were true for people.

To help reduce that percentage, the organization spays or neuters every animal before placing it in a permanent home. Its spay-neuter clinic is also open to the public, at rates far less expensive than a veterinarian’s, to encourage everyone to have their pets “fixed” to prevent unwanted litters.

Grossheider encourages pet owners who can afford it to use a veterinarian because vet hospitals have more equipment and a wider range of services, but she’s proud of the Humane Society’s clinic and wants to see more people use it for their pets. The goal is to remove cost as an obstacle to population control.

The group’s best-known service is placing cats and dogs into permanent homes, an effort that clearly is working.

Last year, the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society placed 225 cats and dogs. In just the first seven months of this year, it placed 235. At that pace, the society will find homes for nearly 80 percent more animals in 2015 than in 2014.

To support the slogan that “Adoption is the better option,” the Humane Society points out that its adoption fee of $75 to $90 for cats and dogs includes spay-neuter services, vaccinations, deworming and other benefits, compared to the hundreds or thousands of dollars it costs to buy a pet from a store or breeder and then pay separately for veterinary services.

Another slogan makes that point: “Save money and save a life.”

The Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society operates independently but also in cooperation with Santa Barbara County Animal Services shelters in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc, and the San Luis Obispo County animal shelter in San Luis Obispo; separate Humane Societies in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo; and private groups that include the Central Coast SPCA in Orcutt, DAWG (Dog Adoption & Welfare Group) in Santa Barbara, and VIVA (Volunteers for Inter-Valley Animals) in Lompoc.

When someone turns in a lost or abandoned dog or cat, the animal must go to one of the three county Animal Services shelters for at least three days to give the owner a chance to claim it before adoption to someone else. The Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society then takes some of those pets from county shelters and also accepts animals directly if the people surrendering them can prove ownership.

If you are interested in adopting a pet, click here for photos of available animals at the shelter at 111 Commerce Drive in Buellton, near the northern end of McMurray Road.

As badly as the staff and volunteers want all the animals to find a home, adoption isn’t automatic. To increase the odds that the match will work, potential adopters must fill out a survey about their homes and lifestyles, spend time with the animal at the shelter and bring in as many family members as possible to help assess compatibility. Sometimes, people are asked to visit several times.

To keep animals (and people) happy once they’re matched up, the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society also offers a low-cost dental clinic, free dog-training classes, recommendations for dog-training books on its website, and boarding services for people who can’t take their pets along when they travel.

The Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society is located at 111 Commerce Drive in Buellton. Click here for more information, email [email protected] or call 805.688.8224. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk contributing writer Dave Bemis can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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