(Photo above left) SPARC’s Executive Director William LeFeuvre, Ms. California Christina Meredith, FOX Good Day LA’s Reporter Mar Yvette, Officer Randy Haumann and K9 Hozy attended the SPARC celebration. (Above right) Aloha Dog Grooming was present at the SPARC celebration. They brought along Stewart the Alpaca that has been hand fed since birth.

No-kill: First anniversary of SPARC cause for canine, cat celebration

June 21, 2013
Santa Paula News

There were lots of dogs and cats - lots and lots of dogs and cats - that attended the one-year anniversary of the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center Saturday - animals brought for a visit by their adoptive owners as well as those hoping to go home with a “furever” family.

And then there were those who had already adopted an animal from the nonprofit SPARC who were shopping for another pet and were closely examining the excited pups in the easily accessible speed-dating pens. 

Samantha Frady of Santa Paula, a volunteer for numerous organizations, said she was on hand at the celebration as a civilian, but didn’t rule out donating time to the county’s first no-kill shelter. Temptation has so far prevented Frady from volunteering at SPARC, as “It would take me a while to be able to walk out and leave them” without taking dog after dog home with her. “When I know I can do that,” Frady added, “I’ll volunteer!”

“I got Chauncey here,” said Bette Hall of Oxnard of the black mixed Labrador with the big smile that was attempting to poke his nose through the mesh to meet some smaller canines. Hall said finding another dog wasn’t up to Chauncey alone: “I also have cats, so that makes it a little more complicated,” but SPARC’s adoption policies make it easy to “try out” an animal to make sure it will work with the family.

Hundreds of supporters turned out Saturday at SPARC’s one-year anniversary celebration, actually one year and two weeks after the shelter opened officially on June 1, 2012, an effort that had taken more than a year.

Visitors to the celebration were able to let their kids enjoy inflatable jumpers while they browsed the displays including The Body Shop of Pacific View Mall, which was offering samples of spa products and asking that people sign a petition to ban animal testing for such products. The Body Shop only sells products that are not tested on animals. 

And animals were the stars of the show - from a petting zoo featuring a stunted, bottle raised alpaca from The Aloha Alpacas of Santa Paula sharing a pen with its dog companions to the macaw on the shoulder of a passerby.

Santa Paula Police Officers Larry Johnson and Randy Haumann were there with their K9s, mingling with the crowd of hundreds who stopped by to enjoy the celebration.

SPARC Co-Founder and Board President Diane Rowley said in the past year her “best estimate” is about 1,000 dogs, cats and other animals have “come through here.... We’re excited at how well things have been going,” including the almost zero euthanasia rate, a sad step taken only in extreme cases of illness or injury. 

Adoptions are on the upswing - both at the center and at regular offsite events, there is a new director, and sociability training of the dogs as well as the addition of piped music and enhanced soundproofing measures have benefited all, including the neighbors who had complained about noise issues.

Area youth have also benefited by being able to volunteer at SPARC, such as Jayme Alvarez and Vivianna Lara, each 12 years old and now spending time at SPARC three times a week. “The animals are so cute,” said Vivianna. “We want to find them homes,” said Jayme of the two small dogs the girls were holding, Jaimita and Faye. 

Rowley noted SPARC is strongly proactive on spay and neutering as a method of holding down the population of animals, and in turn allowing more to live quality lives: “We call it the Speuter Run,” the truckload of animals that are transported each week to a clinic for the procedures.

SPARC is garnering much media attention: in recent weeks famed “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan, accompanied by Mar Yvette of Fox 11 News Los Angeles, visited the shelter for a feature broadcast. Yvette was the moderator of Saturday’s celebration: “I support this place as much as I can,” she noted. “So many of the animals are so cute, I just want to take them home!”

Santa Paula City Councilman Jim Tovias said he has two rescue dogs, including one that has to be fed from a special wooden spoon. He noted, “I can’t believe the first year has gone by so fast; SPARC has been a wonderful addition to Santa Paula that I hope others emulate.”

Such a facility said Tovias, is “typical of Santa Paula... it’s unique as our city is and it makes us more unique.” And cost-savvy: using the services of SPARC saves the city more than $40,000 annually over what had been paid when the animal contract was with county animal services. Added value was the major facelift of the facility, formerly a blighted strip mall at the corner of 7th and Santa Barbara streets.

“We’re proving to everyone that there are more than enough compassionate people out there to overcome” the rate of animals euthanized in shelters, although SPARC Executive Director Bill LeFeuvre said no-kill takes much work and public awareness. “And what I’ve seen over the last two months - the growth and awareness of SPARC throughout the county - well adoptions are doubling and almost tripling, we’re getting donations dropped off” of cash and materials needed for shelter operations, “and our presence on Facebook” has not only driven adoptions, but also reunited owners with their lost pets. 

LeFeuvre said the celebration was not only for SPARC, but also for Santa Paula being one the few “100 or so” no-kill shelters in the nation. “SPARC shows it can be done; it’s a model that can be replicated.... Our job is to foster, to bring pets and owners together and create happy homes. We’re a safety net,” albeit a practical one that ensures animals are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and micro-chipped, all at a low cost. 

City Animal Control and the public bring in strays, and owners who can no longer care for them surrender others. But what all the animals have in common is at SPARC they have a second chance to find a loving, “furever” home.

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