South County Animal Rescue (SCAR) Board President Carla Strobridge Stewart remembers the weekend that a foster dog stole her heart.
Two travelers discovered a puppy, whimpering and covered in mange, hiding along the Arroyo Seco River. They contacted Greenfield resident and Monterey County District 3 Supervisor Chris Lopez, who called Strobridge Stewart for help.
After a stop at Los Coches Animal Hospital in Soledad, Strobridge Stewart fostered the pup for four months. She shared social media updates about Bubba Peach, named for his tenacity and the location where he was found, throughout the process.
“I, along with so many in South County, followed every post with stories of plastic gloves, fresh towels, PPE, first cuddles, first head lifts and tail wags, and finally, full recovery and adoption,” says Lopez.
He now calls himself a lifelong champion of SCAR.
“They have stepped in to fill a gap with a level of compassion, care and community that makes us all proud. The fact that they chose to include South County as part of the organization’s name shows a pride in our region and the people who make it special,” he says.
“Bubba really represents what we do. We take the sick, the abandoned, the neglected, the unwanted, and we love them. We incorporate them into our families. We nurse them back to health, and we find them the perfect forever homes,” says Strobridge Stewart.
Since its inception in 2016, SCAR has rescued more than 1,100 dogs and cats. When shelters or pet owners reach out about animals that are struggling, SCAR turns to its foster network. Volunteers from King City to Castroville offer temporary homes. The nonprofit, in turn, provides resources, supplies and financial support to help families care for pets until they are adopted.
Grant funding helped SCAR create a popular spay and neuter voucher program available to households in South Monterey County. In October, the organization also launched a low-cost vaccination clinic that serves more than 150 animals a month in Greenfield, King City and neighboring communities.
All of SCAR’s efforts are led by volunteers. It’s one of several Monterey County animal rescue organizations that relies mostly or entirely on donated time and funding.
The SNIP Bus (Spay Neuter Imperative Project) has provided more than 20,000 low-cost spay and neuter surgeries, thanks to generous supporters and volunteers.
Heading Home Animal Rescue, a nonprofit run almost exclusively by volunteers, finds homes for hundreds of shelter animals from Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties each year.
Community Cat Allies works to spay, neuter and vaccinate feral and free-roaming cats, extending veterinary care and services that help manage population numbers and keep unowned animals out of shelters. Volunteers lead the mostly North Monterey County and Salinas focused nonprofit.
Strobridge Stewart and her fellow founders established SCAR to help pet lovers in an underserved region. Often, they outline campaigns in direct response to community needs. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, for example, several South County pet owners asked for help.
“People have lost their jobs, sometimes their homes. They can barely feed their families, let alone their pets. We wanted to give them one less thing to worry about, so we opened pet food pantries in Soledad, King City, Bradley, San Antonio and Lockwood. All of the pet food was donated,” says Strobridge Stewart. “While 2020 was hard because of COVID, people have been extraordinarily generous. Without that incredible generosity, we would have been at a standstill, but we are able to continue helping animals.”
Like SCAR, Golden Oldies Cat Rescue started because a resident recognized a need. While working at a shelter, founder Margaret Slaby saw that older cats were euthanized at higher rates than kittens—especially if they had medical issues or needed extra training before joining a new home. Slaby started Golden Oldies in June 2016, with five volunteers and a dream of serving cats ages six and older.
Since then, the nonprofit has fostered and placed approximately 85 cats. While Slaby and a foster/adoption coordinator now work part-time for Golden Oldies, about 120 volunteers keep programs running smoothly.
“We continue to grow because people step forward and say, ‘I believe in this mission,’” Slaby says.
Golden Oldies rescues some shelter cats, but mainly assists individuals who can no longer care for animals because they are moving, ill, or facing other personal challenges. Slaby shares the example of 15-year-old feline sisters Sophie and Claudette, whose lifelong guardian couldn’t have cats in her new home. She was devastated to give them up, but Golden Oldies found a family willing to adopt both cats.
“The cats we’ve adopted out range in age from 6 to 16. That’s like being in your 90s, as a human. Imagine, at that point, losing not only your home but also your person. You’ve lost your whole world. These cats are traumatized, they’re scared, they’re grieving. We make it a little less traumatic by finding a foster home with someone who will love them and give them time to adjust,” says Slaby. “If a cat is not adopted for whatever reason, it will live its life in a foster home. We make a lifetime commitment.”
To support South County Animal Rescue’s veterinary care, fostering and adoption initiatives, please visit www.scar.pet. Golden Oldies Cat Rescue will celebrate its fifth anniversary in June 2021 with an online fundraiser. Learn more at gocatrescue.org. For additional information, go to www.snipbus.org, www.headinghomerescue.org and www.communitycatallies.org.