Founded in 1982 on the back porch of Helen Clary’s home, along with a passionate group of community activists, Pets Lifeline has been the safety net for companion animals in the Sonoma Valley for 30 years and, to this day, is the only animal shelter located in the Valley. The organization serves a diverse population of nearly 30,000, spread out over 166 square miles.
Pets Lifeline is now celebrating 30 years of caring for pets in the our community by honoring the fond experiences of the past, offering unique shelter programs of today, with a keen focus on the future.
The early days
It was in 1987 that Pets Lifeline bought the property on which it now stands and built the main shelter structure. The house on the property became a thrift store serving as a fundraising source for the fledgling shelter. Over the last three decades, additions and modifications have been made to bring the Shelter into its current living form. In 2000, the thrift store was replaced with the beautiful fenced dog yard and later, a new roof along with temporary mobile structures were added.
Elfriede Whitcher, one of the original “crafters” reminisces, “The yellow house, or thrift store served as a magnet for the craft group to meet, rummage through great finds, and use discarded things in an imaginative way to bring new life to them for our PLL Christmas and Easter sales. All the while you could hear laughter, while shelter cats, in the middle of everything, teased and played.”
The greater good
In 2005, Pets Lifeline served on a national level when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, leaving people and their pets homeless. The Marin Humane Society called our shelter to ask if we would join them in a concerted effort to save a plane load of stranded cats and dogs flown in from New Orleans. Pets Lifeline jumped at the chance. A team consisting of Susan Simons (executive director), George Bradley (board member) and Jane Harris (volunteer, dog handler) drove to San Francisco Airport and waited on the tarmac for the plane to land with these still wet, cold, and hungry cats and dogs. After a long night, the Pets Lifeline team left with approximately 12 dogs and five cats. After processing, the real work began – nursing these sick animals back to health. Coordinating with the U.S. Humane Society and Petfinder, Pets Lifeline worked successfully over the next several months to reconnect some of the animals with their original owners, found local homes for others and even placed puppies born during the process. Some tender moments, a few tears, and many happy stories – the effort was a collective high point for everyone involved.
Walking the walk
Today, Pets Lifeline has adopted over 15,000 animals, staying with its core mission to find forever homes for the stray and homeless cats and dogs in Sonoma Valley. In addition, PLL offers a wide variety of programs, such as a low-cost spay/neuter clinic, dog training classes, a kitten fostering program, and a feral program that is the most successful in the county. The shelter prides itself on its Humane Education curriculum that offers an afterschool program and a 10-week summer camp. The volunteer program provides an array of opportunities for those passionate in their commitment to helping animals.
“Pets Lifeline has so much to be thankful for, given its 30-year history caring for the animals in the Sonoma Community,” said Nancy King, executive director. None of this is possible without the ardent support of our volunteers, donors and board of directors, not to mention our dedicated staff. We look forward to what the future holds for the next incarnation of Sonoma Valley’s only animal shelter.”
With the celebration of these past 30 years comes the promise of being around for 30 more and the hope of raising $30,000 over the span of this year to modernize the shelter facilities. Pets Lifeline also intends to further develop its legacy program, where every year, angels from heaven leave legacy gifts to continue its care for pets.
“Anyone who spends time at Pets Lifeline knows how easy it is to fall in love with the place and those precious pets. Together, we will do everything possible to give those cats and dogs a fighting chance to live a good, long life,” says Monica Dashwood, board president.
For more information visit petslifeline.org or call 996.4577 x 102.