From its upcoming special events "Paws in the Park" and "Is Spot Hot or Not?" to its ongoing rescue, adoption, feed redistribution, and therapy dog programs, the Valley Humane Society is at the center of the area's community of pets and pet lovers.
"Valley Humane is the only non-profit animal welfare organization that has a rescue facility in Pleasanton," says Melanie Sadek, executive director. "We not only have space in our facility for cats and dogs but we also have a whole network of volunteer fosters who take animals into their homes, monitor their health for us, and then once we can get them spayed or neutered, we can help find them a new home."
The organization cares for anywhere from 40 to 120 animals at any given time, with its staff of 10 relying heavily on the efforts of a squad of dedicated volunteers to make everything work. "We have about 125 a week who come in and help us," says Sadek. "It's amazing - we have volunteers who have been with us for more than 20 years and some who put in more than 1,000 hours per year with us. We need those volunteers or we couldn't do what we do."
Valley Humane's programs are numerous and address a wide variety of needs. Sadek describes one, AniMeals, as "a pet food pantry." "We get a lot of donations of food, cat litter, and other supplies, and redistribute it to low income families in our community so that they don't have to give up their animals." Thanks to ongoing contributions from companies including Walmart, they distribute 30,000 pounds of dry food, 15,000 cans of wet food, and thousands of pounds of litter over the course of a year. It's an ideal program for companies seeking to give their employees an opportunity to log some volunteer time, she says, because "it can be anywhere from a once-a-month commitment to a three-times-a-month commitment because we know exactly when the distribution is going to happen. It's just a matter of picking a couple hours every month when an employee can leave the office."
The Canine Comfort Pet Therapy program offers a unique way to bring people together with animals. Over 150 handlers take their dogs to sites such as the VA hospital in Livermore and high schools in Pleasanton and Livermore during finals week to allow patients and students, respectively, to enjoy the benefits of interacting with trained therapy dogs. Pleasanton and Livermore schools also bring Canine Comfort Pet Therapy teams into their special needs classes. Another program, Paws to Read, brings animals to seven different East Bay libraries to interact with young children. "It's been proven if children read to a dog, they learn to associate reading with a positive experience and it actually helps them grow their literacy skills," says Sadek. "I love this program - it's just so much fun to watch these kids!"
The community will get a chance to support the Valley Humane Society while celebrating their own pets at two upcoming events, Paws in the Park and Is Spot Hot or Not?
Paws in the Park, which takes place on September 27 at Amador Valley Community Park, combines a one-mile pledge walk with a host of other fun activities like a beer and wine garden, a children's area, dog adoptions, vendor booths, food trucks, and more. Sadek notes that many area businesses attend the event as a team-building exercise. "It's a fun day to spend with your coworkers and their families in an environment where your employer doesn't have to coordinate all the details, yet everyone gets to hang out together and have fun."
Is Spot Hot or Not? takes place online and kicks off in October. "It's a photo contest - owners will submit a photo of their pets and people get to vote on whether they are attractive or not," Sadek says. Any pet can participate, from dogs and cats to geckos and parrots. There is a $1 fee per vote, with a $5 minimum, and prizes are awarded for first three finishers.
For additional information on Valley Humane Society programs, volunteer opportunities, or events, access valleyhumane.org or call (925) 426-8656.
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