Written by: Tim Wang
Every day, the barking and purring of dogs and cats can be heard as they snuggle with volunteers for comfort. The Palo Alto Animal Service, located at 3281 East Bayshore Road, is home to more than a dozen canines, felines and an assortment of other animals. On any given day, people can come in to look at and potentially adopt one of them as a pet.
The animal shelter is composed of five main areas, a gift shop, office, the cat section, the yard and the dog section. Walking in from the front door, one is greeted with a shop that holds all that is needed to properly raise a pet. To the left is the office, the nerve center of the shelter and along with it, the clinic where animals can receive health services and are spayed or neutered. To the right of the shop is a corridor that leads to the cat rooms, which include their cages and play rooms. Directly in front and past the shop is the yard, and beyond that are the dog kennels and a few rabbit pens.
The Palo Alto Animal Service serves the Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills communities. Last year alone the shelter took in over 900 animals and helped hundreds of them find new homes. In addition to arranging adoptions, the shelter is responsible for helping to recover lost pets, controlling vicious animals and caring for injured stray cats and dogs, with rabies control being its primary job.
Nationwide, over eight million animals are found and taken in by animal shelters per year, and fewer than half of those animals can find homes that are willing to adopt them. Each year, however, almost four million animals are euthanized because they are not adopted. The Palo Alto shelter, however, is dedicated to the preservation of the lives of the animals they serve.
The Palo Alto Animal Service is usually busiest in the spring, with the wild animal births, or after natural disasters, which bring in a huge influx of lost animals that have been separated from their owners. These times are stressful for both the owner and the service, as the service becomes bursting to the seams with animals.
The place is also one of great joy and sadness. “This is a very emotional place, people are very happy when they find their pet, but at the same time it can be very sad if a lost pet is found deceased,” supervisor Connie Urbanski said. As such, the Palo Alto Animal service does its best to find and rescue as many lost pets as possible.
Volunteers are welcome but must undergo extensive training and are asked to serve for a minimum of six months. Volunteers perform tasks like playing, walking and training dogs, helping cats socialize, grooming rabbits or even office work like scheduling and taking reports. They can also choose to foster an animal in their own homes. Opportunities also exist to help out at various events and projects that the animal service hosts.
Senior Sarah Hessen-Schmidt, an avid volunteer at a local dog rescue organization, agrees that volunteering is very important to the community but also believes that it is extremely self fulfilling. “It makes me feel good about myself and that I am making a difference for the lives of animals and of other people in the community,” she said. With continuous cuts in money and staff, local animal shelters and services need all the help they can get.
With hundreds of animals dying every day from neglect and abuse, an individual can make a great difference and drastically improve the life of an animal. If you have time on your hands, are an animal-lover and want to help out, the Palo Alto Animal Service would love to have you.