For August we're working with Oakland, California based non-profit rescue organization, PALS East Bay. Not only do they rescue animals of all kinds, they also host free vaccine clinics every month! I sat down with their Executive Director, Jessica Lefebvre to learn more about their amazing work.
Tell us about how PALS East Bay was started? Is there a personal story behind PALS’ mission?
People, Animals, Love and Support East Bay, aka PALS, was founded in 2014 by shelter volunteers and advocates who wanted a way to help get very senior dogs, many in need of hospice care, out of the shelter and into loving homes for their final days. This evolved into PALS starting and managing the foster program for both medical dogs and big dogs, which we ran until August 2016.
In the summer of 2015, the shelter and PALS were overwhelmed with the number of dogs brought in with Parvovirus – a horrible disease that is 50% fatal yet preventable with vaccines. That fall, PALS launched our free vaccine clinics, making core vaccines, flea treatment and dewormer available to all, which have occurred without fail every 4 weeks since. When we saw parvo popping up in pockets at homeless encampments and curbside communities, we realized how impractical it was to expect our unsheltered neighbors to be able to make it to our clinics – so we began to serve the camps in Oakland directly.
For several years, in between our regularly scheduled clinics, PALS has been visiting the growing number of encampments providing our services to ensure all pets in Oakland have the same access to basic care. We fully believe that when everyone has access to basic vaccinations and care (including free spay and neuter,) our entire Community is healthier and stronger.
What are the biggest challenges PALS faces?
Funding and foster homes. PALS is fully committed to our outreach and clinics, but the amount of services, particularly emergency services and additional medical we are able to provide and the number of camps we can visit is definitely determined by our available funds. Similarly, for the puppies and dogs we are able to take in, the more families that are willing to open their homes and hearts to fostering, the more pets we are able to help with finding their forever homes.
Running a rescue and helping dogs can be tough, both emotionally and physically. Can you share a tough experience or trying moment for PALS, and what you did to overcome it?
We often encounter dogs in homeless encampments that are very ill when we first meet them, or that still get parvo or are suffering from pyometra (a severe and deadly infection of the uterus in dogs), things that are preventable with routine care, vaccinations, and spay/neuter. We do our best to treat what we can and educate on why what we do is so important – not just for the public, but for the residents of the camps as well. We shake off the tough situations as best we can and focus on the big picture and the number of pets we have successfully kept healthy.
Do you have a network of fosters in the East Bay that help care for the dogs or do the dogs stay in a facility?
We have a facility that allows us to immediately intake pets as needed, but this is meant to be transitional while we match fosters to best suit the needs of the animals in our care. Our goal is to be as foster based as possible.
Where does your primary financial support come from?
PALS is almost fully funded by private donations, though we have received some grants this year towards the funding of our clinics. We hope to be able to apply and get approved for more grants in the future allowing us to expand services. We are very grateful for everyone who supports our work.
How many dogs on average do you place in their forever homes annually?
This is our first year since 2016 that we are able to actively intake pets, and we are on track to place 10-15 dogs per month.
For those reading this, if they want to help fight the good fight, what can they do to help?
We always need volunteers for our monthly vaccine clinics, we always need foster homes (preferably in the East Bay which is where our vets are located), and we always appreciate donations of food, equipment, from our wish lists, or monetary.
What are the plans for the future of PALS?
PALS has recently expanded in 2019 to be able to accept animals, which so far has been mostly litters of puppies, from the unsheltered Communities we serve. PALS is committed to getting the parents of the litters we have in our care spayed and neutered, and to find loving homes for the most vulnerable babies from the most vulnerable communities. When someone adopts from PALS, they are supporting our entire program and mission of providing basic, core care to all pets, strengthening our community as a whole.
If you're interested in helping PALS East Bay, you can donate now or like them on Facebook.