Thursday, March 26, 2020

We Can All Save Pets in this Difficult Time

At SVPP, we are rescuing an extraordinary number of pets from the San Jose shelter right now. In fact, we've rescued 25 dogs, cats and kittens since March 1. But, the strain on the
system is immense. Due to Covid-19-related public health mandates, the municipal shelter is closed to the public. Pets that normally would have exposure, human interaction and adoption opportunities are now hunkered down in shelter facilities while humans work to flatten the coronavirus curve. So, we are rescuing en masse.

A good chance for these pets to have a loving forever after is to get them out of the shelter and into foster care. A better chance is to keep them out of shelters all together.  

Here are some steps we can take to make sure we don't increase shelter intake at this difficult time.
  • Make sure your pet is chipped.  This is the best way to insure that a lost pet can be reunited with its owner. Most vets and many local low-cost vaccination clinics provide this life-saving service. A microchip is painlessly inserted in your pet and the its unique ID number, along with your contact information, is registered with a national pet database. Check to see if your vet or clinic can provide the service at this time.
  • Consider fostering, especially if you are working from home.  The need is immediate and the options are great — dogs, cats, kittens — whatever pet best works for you, your family and your space.  You can even foster to adopt. Think of it as a heart-felt test drive! 
  • Life plan for your pet. Determine, in advance, who can step in to care for your cat or dog in the case of illness or some other circumstance that renders your normal care unavailable. Ensure that the person of your choice is comfortable — and committed — to following through if needed.
  • If you have to rehome your pet, use the many resources available to get your pet situated with another loving family vs. surrendering it to a shelter and putting it at risk.  SVPP has a page of information and resources on its website.  It turns out that one of the best opportunities to rehome a pet is with, a website and mobile application that allows you to connect and communicate with neighbors in your local community.  You can post photos, have on-line discussions, meet potential adopters, and maybe even rehome your pet with someone in the hood. Another great rehoming resource also listed on the SVPP website is  The experts at Adopt-A-Pet and the Petco Foundation provide a process that can help owners rehome their pets.  Adopt-A-Pet is the country’s largest non-profit adoption website.

Most importantly, in this stressful and challenging time, be there for your pets and each other.  We can save more lives together.

Karen Zamel is a long-time SVPP volunteer and is now a member of the communications team.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Governor's Proposed Budget Can Help Make California a No-Kill State

Last month, pets and politics made the news. In January, Governor Gavin Newsom rolled out his fiscal budget for 2020-2021 and as part of it, proposed $50 million to make California a no-kill state.  The money would be awarded to the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program over a five-year period and would provide shelters – across the state – the training and resources needed to transform their organizations to no-kill.
The need is greater and more urgent than most of us realize. Best Friends Animal Society is carefully and publically tracking euthanasia rates across the country in its effort and mission to “Save Them All.”  It turns out that California still euthanizes more than 100,000 pets per year, second only in the nation to Texas.  Importantly, the governor’s proposed effort focuses on underserved and under-resourced shelters in the state.
We, in the Bay Area, will certainly benefit from this effort.  We all win when pets are rescued and lives are saved. But how do rescues who have had to be highly reactive — pulling pets with time running out — evolve to remain relevant and stay involved in the process of eliminating pet homelessness?  
SVPP was started in 2015 with that context in mind.  Since the bay area culture believes in, supports and works toward no-kill, we’ve worked to envision and develop an organization that interactively involves the community – in saving lives, making sure adoptions are a good fit, and building the relationship with owners and their pets after adoption occurs.  We focus on education, outreach, providing accessible resources, and pet/people involvement. Pup Plaza and our roster of activities there is our flagship example of enabling community engagement.  All of these activities, in the end, support our mission of saving lives and ending homelessness.
But, not every community is as far along on the no-kill continuum and the governor’s budget proposal — if enacted — can help change our state-wide statistics. The budget will be revised in May, the legislature has until June 15 to approve it, and the Governor has until July 1 to sign it into law. Once that happens, the money will be available to make a difference to shelter pets – who don’t need to be at risk.  
So, what’s the call to action here?  Call or email the Governor, your state assembly member and senator today.  Tell them that you support the proposed funds to make California a no-kill state!
Blogger Karen Zamel is a long-time SVPP volunteer and is now a member of the communications team.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Happy "Change a Pet's Life Day" on January 24!

January 24 is “Change a Pet’s Life” day.  This “holiday” inspires me because it’s a fundamental part of SVPP's mission — to change pets' lives. We do it by rescuing at-risk cats, dogs and kittens from the municipal shelter, providing the medical and emotional care they need and finding the best possible forever home where they can thrive. At last count, SVPP had rescued 1,190 pets since the organization's founding in 2015. How amazing is that?

The good news is that it’s a two-way street.  While we work to change the lives of at risk pets, they are also changing ours.  It’s empirical for me, but also scientific. According to many sources, including  Fetch by WebMD, there are multiple health benefits to pet ownership.  Pets can help lower blood pressure, improve mood, reduce depression, improve fitness level, assist with heart health, strengthen the
immune system and provide support in coping with various medical conditions. How's that for a good start?

In my own experience, pet fostering and adoption has provided some of those benefits and more… a profound sense of purpose, heart-warming satisfaction for improving an at-risk pet’s circumstance and a heap of gratitude that we are able to make a difference.  For me, this adds up to a more meaningful life. 

As we begin 2020, consider making an impact on a pet's life by volunteering, fostering a pet in need, donating to organizations that do this important work, or by sharing the joys of adoption with your friends and family. Let’s do this with a renewed sense of wonder at the impact we are having on pets' lives...and the impact they are having on ours.

Visit for information on fostering, adopting and related resources.

Karen Zamel is a long-time SVPP volunteer and a member of the communications team.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Feline Engineering Joins the SVPP Team

“Cat behavior can change!” asserts Jessica Char, cat behavior expert
and founder of Feline Engineering.

Jessica Char, Feline Engineering Founder and
Cat Behavior Expert 
That’s music to my ears.

As the owner of three feline frenemies — two of whom can barely co-exist — it’s amazing and hopeful to know that these three might be able to achieve d├ętente.

Jessica is working with SVPP to expand its cat- and kitten-related programs and support. She is providing educational material and handouts, redesigning and enhancing educational resources the SVPP website — both cat and dog topics. She has launched a cat-focused educational series at Pup Plaza, talking about cat happiness and answering community questions. The first session held last month, “Cat Lovers Chat,” was a resounding success for cat owners wanting to improve pet quality of life.

Feline Engineering's Jessica Char teaches
Sandy how to high-five as part of her
behavior-based training.
“People think that if cats are a certain way, that’s it and they’re stuck. Dog owners know they can work on their dog’s behavior through training, but most cat owners don’t,” Jessica says. “There is help, and people have options to address the challenges they are facing."

Jessica comes to SVPP with great experience and perspective. She first became interested in cat behavior after serving as a volunteer and then employee of the Humane Society Silicon Valley. She started with a focus on dogs and then, because of staffing challenges, expanded to kittens and cats. Discovery inspired her.

“Knowing a little about what a cat needs – play, height…a cat that’s ready
to attack you through the cage, with a few modifications, is completely
social. People have choices and options and can embrace cats the same
way they embrace dogs.”

Cat Lovers Chat was the first of a feline-based educational
series held at Pup Plaza recently.
After leaving the Humane Society, Jessica started her business, Feline Engineering. She provides education and private consultations, and applies a pragmatic approach: “real-life solutions that people can embrace.” These solutions can include environmental assessment, enrichment recommendations, guidance on how to work through conflict, and more.

In addition to private practice, Jessica wanted to be part of a rescue non-
profit that actively engaged with and supported its community. Enter SVPP and a community that is invited to embrace these new resources.

What's next for SVPP and Feline Engineering?

“In the longer term, we want to look at the possibility of helping adult cats in the community,” Jessica says. “Kittens are adopted very quickly, but adult cats don’t have that luxury. They are often in limbo with long foster or shelter stays. The goal is to get them into a different model — and into their forever homes faster.”

Questions for Jessica? You can email her — — or visit the Feline Engineering website.

Our blog author, Karen Zamel, is a long-time volunteer for SVPP and now a member of the communications team.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Puppies with A Purpose: Guide Dogs for the Blind

By Amy Yasukawa
I have always had a love and passion for dogs and community service, and knew that one day I would love to merge the two together. I was very excited when I discovered the organization, Guide Dogs for the Blind.

When I was in preschool, only big enough to sing the alphabet, my teacher was diagnosed with a rare disorder, causing her to become blind. It was devastating, but she wanted to remain independent, so she eventually received a dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind, in San Rafael, CA. Attending her graduation and seeing her guide dog made me realize how rewarding it would be if I could raise a guide dog for a blind person.

When I was a freshman in high school, I eagerly contacted a local puppy raising club and attended its bi-monthly meetings. Never owning a dog, I was extremely excited and could not wipe away the gigantic smile from my face with the thought of receiving a dog to train.

For about a year and a half, it would be up to us to help a puppy learn the necessary basic skills to then go back to Guide Dogs for the Blind for formal training. There, the dog would have further schooling and would be paired with a blind companion who will put his or her trust with a new guide.

The time finally came when I would receive my first puppy. Riding through the streets of San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge, my mom and I finally reached our destination. I saw a big, bold, shiny sign that read, “Guide Dogs for the Blind National Headquarters.”  It was an image that will forever be in my mind. There, I was presented with a playful eight-week-old Labrador retriever puppy. It was love at first sight for both my puppy and me as we both eager for the journey ahead!

Raising a guide dog is a lot of work, but also full of joy. Even with all of the hardships, I found myself proud of what my puppy and I had achieved. We went on many exciting adventures like out to restaurants, stores, movies, beaches, and rides on buses, trains and planes. That way, the puppy is exposed to a multitude of sights, sounds, and smells.

When it’s time to part, although a tearful goodbye, there will always be many fond memories I will cherish, watching our adorable eight-week old fluffy puppy to a mature and confident dog who will improve the quality of someone’s life. Knowing the wonderful service the dog will provide is the most rewarding and fulfilling feeling a person can experience. The sense of pure confidence, appreciation, and peace when a blind companion grasps the harness of the guide dog is something I will never forget.

Editor's Note: Amy was SVPP's summer intern who amazingly and at a young age — discovered a passion for animals and the value of fostering a service pet who would support and love someone in need. Amy has returned to class this month at Seattle University in Washington and plans to graduate next year.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Picture This...SVPP's Dynamic Mother and Son Duo!

Nancy Hong and her son, Ryan, are the talented team and dynamic duo who are shooting heartwarming photos for SVPP.  These sweet and compelling images of our rescue pets are helping us find their forever homes. We interviewed Nancy about how she and Ryan became photographers and how they became part of SVPP's life-saving efforts.

When and why did you start photography?  
In 2003, I got my first camera.  I started taking pictures of everything and signed up for a photography class a few months after that.  The instructor allowed me to join despite not having a film camera! I joined a local photography club and also volunteered as a photographer for an animal rescue. When friends started growing their families, I got my feet wet in newborn photography.  Then, because of work life and family balance, photography then took a back seat for a while.

How and when did Ryan become interested in photography?  
In January of this year.  We were at the Oakland Zoo. I had my DSLR camera with me and he asked if he could take pictures, too.  Taking his first pictures of the giraffes got him excited, and he ended up taking pictures of almost every animal he saw at there. After that, he started taking pictures of our friend's two cats whenever we visited. We visited a friend who has 12 pets, including rabbits and parrots and we had fun photographing them together.  That friend suggested that we volunteer for a rescue organization as photographers.

How did you and Ryan join up with SVPP?
The suggestion of volunteering as photographers sounded like a great idea.  It was a way for me to get back into photography and contribute to a good cause at the same time. Ryan could take as many or as few pictures as he wanted and I would fill in the rest. He was happy at the thought of getting to see dogs and cats, since we don't have pets of our own.  I searched around and found SVPP. Working with SVPP has helped further Ryan's interest in photography. We started volunteering for SVPP in March. Since then, the quality of his photos has really grown. He's excited each time we go to an event.

What do you strive for when photographing rescue animals?
I think ultimately to show what beautiful animals they are. 

How do you think this has positively impacted your relationship with him?
It's been wonderful to be able to share something I enjoy with my son.  We spend a lot of time together outside of work and school, but it's great for both of us to do something we enjoy together and knowing we're also helping a good cause.

6. Do the two of you have one favorite SVPP photograph? 
We both like this one: Kitten Photo.  Ryan took this.  He says it's his favorite because it shows how cute and cuddly the kitten was and both the person and kitten are so relaxed and comfortable.  I love the lighting, the angle and the colors. 

Want to see more of Nancy and Ryan's beautiful photography? Follow them on Instagram: nancy.hong11 and ryan_loi_photography.

You can find more information about joining our amazing team of volunteers here.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Enjoy the Summer Safely with Your Pup

By Ayako Lainez

Summer is in full gear and it’s time to have some outdoor fun!  To keep our pup friends safe, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Hydration — Just as we humans need water, our pup friends do too.  Make sure your pet has access to clean, fresh drinking water, and carry a collapsible bowl and water if you are taking a longer walk or traveling.  At home, adding an ice cube to their water is a good way to keep it cool.

Heat —Dogs do not sweat as much as humans do and rely on panting to cool down.
If you have a flat-faced animal such as a pug or bulldog, be aware that they may be more susceptible to heat stroke because they do not pant as well. Some signs your pet may be having a heat stroke are: heavy panting, body feels warm, dehydration, red gums, seizures, unconsciousness. If they are showing any signs that arise concern, consult with your veterinarian immediately.

Exercise — Dogs need exercise as we all know, but on hot days, it may not be the best idea to take a walk outside.  Asphalt soaks up the sun and becomes very hot, and may burn your pet’s paws as they walk. One way to check if you should consider walking is to place your hand on the
asphalt for 7 seconds.  If it is too hot for you to keep your hand down, it is too hot for your dog. If walking, try to stick to early morning or evening times when it is cooler. Natural grass is a better place to walk than asphalt or artificial grass.  You could also look into boots as a way to protect their sensitive paws.

Cars and Swimming Pools — Never leave your pup unsupervised!  Leaving your pet in a car in the parking lot can lead to heat stroke and other problems that can be fatal.  If you have a swimming pool, be aware that all pups do not know how to swim. In addition, try to keep them from drinking pool water as it may contain chlorine.

BBQ’s —It’s grilling season! Human food may not be the best choice for your pup.  It is tempting to give a bone to your furry friend, but bones may break and become a choking hazard.  Keep trash containers and leftovers out of reach to prevent pets from getting into the foil, chewing on a kebab skewer or getting sick or injured.  Also keep insect repellant and citronella candles out of reach as they can be toxic.

Hiking — Keep your pup on the trail to keep them away from dangers such as snakes and plants that, if eaten, may be toxic. Also be sure to bring enough water with you to keep the both of you hydrated. 

ID tags/microchips — In all circumstances, be sure that your pup has an ID tag and your microchip information is up to date in case of emergency or if they get lost. SVPP is offering a low-cost microchip clinic at Pup Plaza on August 24 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. No appointment needed.  

Stay safe, happy summer adventures!