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Catlin Dorset, Spring 2012 Students

From pit bulls to bunnies: San Diego animal rescue organizations stress adoption and education

by Catlin Dorset

Kara with rescues Mason and Sunshine

Kara with rescues Mason and Sunshine
Photo by Catlin Dorset

San Diego is known for its inviting temperatures, sandy beaches, downtown nightlife and great eateries. But even visitors quickly realize you don’t truly fit in until you’ve got a companion alongside you – preferably, a four-legged furry one.

Locations such as Balboa Park, Ocean Beach and Fiesta Island cater to pets, as well as most apartment complexes and even some restaurants. It comes as no surprise then, that San Diego is also home to several animal adoption and rescue organizations. No matter the type, size, breed or age of animal, a group of people likely has their furry backs.

Kara Bonamo is an animal rescuer and avid pit bull advocate in San Diego. Being raised with adopted and and rescued pit bulls, Bonamo and her family believe in the importance of the local organizations working to find forever homes for their animals.

“We’ve always adopted dogs from local rescue organizations, because there’s really no reason to give a breeder a bunch of money when there’s so many good dogs already waiting,”  Bonamo said.

Kara Bonamo has a history of rescuing pit bulls off the street and making them part of her family. She believes pit bulls have a negative image because of media attention, but actively tries to promote the good in the breed.

Meeting the needs of local animals

San Diego Animal Advocates (SDAA) uses its all-volunteer support system to work toward ending the abuse and exploitation of animals. Through education and community outreach, SDAA not only focuses on the local pets needing adoption, but also the safety and welfare of local wildlife and animals in captivity (think SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo). Linda Kelson, vice president of SDAA, says they typically only focus on a few major campaigns at a time, usually addressing issues that other local groups are not tackling.

“We still work on the usual animal rights and animal welfare issues that impact San Diego County, but now that there are other large animal rights groups here in San Diego, we no longer try to tackle all these issues at once, at full throttle,” Kelson said. “We are able to concentrate on a single campaign at a time that in the past would have fallen through the cracks.”

The San Diego Humane Society is one of these large organizations offering many other services beyond just the shelter and adoption of animals. The humane society provides behavior and training classes for pets, educational programs to strengthen the human-animal bond, veterinary care and even a pet loss support group. Kelli Herwehe, PR Coordinator for the San Diego Humane Society, says their goal is to provide community members with the resources they need to be best parent for their pet.

“The San Diego Humane Society offers many resources to keep pets with their families, so I would encourage anyone to look into the resources that are available to them before relinquishing their pet to a shelter,” Herwehe said.

All types of pets in need of homes

Judith Pierce and fostered rabbit Lila Rose

Judith Pierce and fostered rabbit Lila Rose
Photo by Catlin Dorset

Although dogs and cats are probably the animals that most people think need saving, San Diego has its own niche for rescuing rabbits as well. The San Diego House Rabbit Society depends entirely on volunteers and foster families to shelter and support local bunnies in need of permanent homes. Co-chapter Manager Judith Pierce says the House Rabbit Society helps adopt out about 100 rabbits each year, and believes the education and training they provide is a crucial step in the adoption process.

“The education we do is key to finding good homes for our rabbits,” said Pierce. “That’s teaching people to change the way they think about them – from a pet that you keep in the backyard in a cage, to a family companion that you bring inside the home.”

The San Diego House Rabbit Society plays an important role in the rescue, education and adoption of domestic rabbits in the local area. Judith Pierce, manager of San Diego House Rabbit Society, explains why this organization is just as important as any dog rescue and why Easter is a particularly difficult time for them.

While every San Diego animal organization has different objectives, a similar belief is shared by all of them. Educating the general public is the first step toward attaining a goal of reducing the number of abandoned pets. Many of these organizations also have strong opinions against so-called puppy mills, breeders and the people who choose to pay for a designer dog, rather than adopt one waiting in a shelter.

“It’s very important that you do not rush into the decision of adopting a pet,” Herwehe said. “Caring for an animal is a big responsibility and you’re making a life-long commitment to that animal.”

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