Laura Gargano started four years ago volunteering for the San Francisco SPCA. When she came to work for UC Merced developing applications to manage academic personnel information, she saw a need for similar efforts in the Merced County Animal Shelter. In March 2004, Gargano started Friends of the Merced County Animal Shelter to recruit more volunteers like herself.
Our goal is to recruit volunteers for shelter work, animal rescue coordination, spay and neuter programs, and outreach, Gargano says. Plus, we're raising funds to help with shelter and kennel repairs, equipment and improvements.
Gargano touches her organization in some way every day, often visiting before work or late at night to take pictures of adoptable animals for the shelter's Web site. It was difficult to fit into my schedule at first, but I knew that no major accomplishment is easy, so I just continued and tried to recruit others to help, she explains.
She's made significant progress. In the 2003-2004 fiscal year, the shelter's euthanasia rate was reduced by 10.2% and animal rescues (sending animals to no-kill shelters) increased by 6.1%, partially thanks to the efforts of Friends of the Merced County Animal Shelter. Gargano says this has a positive effect not just on the animal population but also on the staff at the shelter.
Many of these dogs have excellent temperaments, but certain breeds have bad reputations and have a slim chance of ever being adopted, she says. That's heartbreaking, and I don't think I'll ever accept it, but it makes me work harder.
She's also motivated by successes she has seen, stories she shares readily. A Siberian husky mix with a leg injury seemed unadoptable, but a veterinarian treated her and found her a good home. A couple adopted a dog that had been dragged by a car and permanently scarred. They even provide their new pooch with her own dog sitter. And there are plenty more.
Gargano continues her work undaunted, a woman with a message. Don't buy, don't breed; adopt! she exhorts. Spay or neuter! Also, is anyone looking for a Chihuahua? I know a real nice one.