Holiday Fund: Valley Humane Society -- purrrfect for our community
Holiday Fund helps nonprofit that matches pets and people
When Valley Humane Society takes in an animal, its life is guaranteed.
Best case, someone adopts the dog or cat to become a well-loved family member. But occasionally an animal turns out to be edgier than first noticed; Kirby the kitty, for instance, has been hanging around Valley Humane Society offices a long time, sunning herself in the windows, and seeking attention on her own terms.
At other times, a medical condition can make adoption difficult; then the animal stays in a foster home and Valley Humane Society pays for treatment.
"Once they're in the system, they're our responsibility," Executive Director Melanie Sadek said.
For this reason, the organization chooses its animals with care, she explained, going to shelters to look for those with good pet potential.
"We pull a lot from Alameda and Contra Costa counties, sometimes San Joaquin," Sadek said.
"Right now we're getting lots of surrenders," she added. "We get phone calls, someone's home is in foreclosure, they can't take their pet with them. We want to make sure it can be placed. We do a personality profile and make an appointment to see what we're dealing with."
Valley Humane Society is a true community organization, located in its new facility at 3670 Nevada St. in Pleasanton, which was funded entirely by donations, as is the annual budget of $500,000.
The volunteers can be seen everywhere -- at outside adoption events, offering Paws to Read in six libraries for children to practice their reading skills with friendly pooches, and Pet Therapy with volunteers bringing their dogs into retirement homes. The AniMeals program provides pet food for qualified families using donations from Pet Food Express, Wal-Mart and Murphy's Paw, which partners with its distributor.
"We work closely with Meals on Wheels," Sadek said.
Valley Humane Society also works with Hope Hospice; volunteers walk the pets that keep patients company during their last days.
The facility on Nevada Street can house about 60 animals, but those that don't do well in shelters stay in foster homes. Sadek said she especially appreciates the volunteers who foster motherless newborns that need to be bottle-fed every two hours.
"We have quite a few foster volunteers but need more," Sadek said.
A large airy classroom is used to host birthday parties. For $250, the volunteers decorate the room and make a presentation about Valley Humane Society. Each child receives a carrying case with a stuffed animal. The parties provide education and add funds to the operating budget, Sadek said. Plus it's a fun and different party for children, beginning at about age 9.
"Giving back is very, very important to us," Sadek said.
She is planning monthly community classes on subjects such as general animal maintenance, why vaccinations are important, and dog training.
"A private nonprofit relies so heavily on donations, that's why we diversify our services," she said.
The most immediate needs are a large examining table for the medical treatment room and a dog scale, Sadek said.
Its largest fundraiser has been the Hidden Gardens of the Valley Tour each spring. This fall it started two new events: Paws in the Park, with a pledge-driven dog walk, agility demonstrations, music and dogs for adoption, at Lion's Wayside Park downtown; and in late October, Howl-o-ween, a costume party with prizes for best-dressed pets and their people.
Sadek hopes to do more external adoption events for dogs.
"The cats get so stressed out," she said, but the dogs love to get out and enjoy the events.
"I'm hoping to find volunteers to do the external adoption events -- the only barriers are money and people," Sadek added.
Valley Humane Society currently has 400 active volunteers. In 2012, Sadek plans a new volunteer training program, both to have stronger volunteers and for their own personal growth and development.
Among the current volunteers are those who offer their professional services, Sadek noted thankfully, including a human resources specialist, legal counsel who works pro bono, and a techie who keeps the computers functioning. Of the six paid staff, four are part time.
With its Home for the Holidays promotion, adoption fees have been lowered at Valley Humane Society as it makes a push to find families for all its pets during this season.
"We see our biggest peak during the holidays," Sadek said. "Over time we've learned that the majority of adopted animals are given as gifts, which increases at this time of year."
On Black Cat Friday, which was held Black Friday, Valley Humane Society placed 19 cats.
In 2012 Valley Humane Society is tweaking its hours to accommodate potential adopters, adding two evenings until 7 p.m. plus Sunday because it's a family day.
"Our goal is to save as many animals as we can so we have to be open when the community needs us to be open," Sadek said.