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“Partners and Friends (Friends of San Clemente Animals, San Clemente, CA)”

Julie Morris, VP, National Shelter Outreach, ASPCA



by Julie Morris, ASPCA Vice President, National Shelter Outreach and Elizabeth Caskie, ASPCA Program Manager, Western Regional Office

In San Clemente, CA, in 1983, someone rescued a dog who had been hit by a car, but could not pay the large fee to mend the animal’s injuries. A veterinarian agreed to treat the dog while the good Samaritan ran an advertisement in the local newspaper asking for help.

Friends of San Clemente Animals (FOSCA), the non-profit volunteer support group for the municipally operated San Clemente Animal Shelter, grew out of people’s overwhelming response to this one dog’s plight. The shelter is strictly for stray and abandoned animals, and has a combined return-to-owner and adoption rate of more than 94 percent -practically unheard of in the world of animal control.

Late in 1996, the ASPCA National Shelter Outreach department selected FOSCA as the first recipient of The ‘A’s’ Western Regional Shelter Partnership Program. The ASPCA chose FOSCA for its enthusiasm, energy, endurance and commitment to developing a humane education program.

Prior to the existence of FOSCA, stray animals were brought to the city maintenance yard and held in just two cages before being picked up by Orange County Animal Control. FOSCA members opened their first shelter in January 1984, in a converted skating rink. It had no runs, dogs were tethered to wire fences, and temporary wood covers provided minimal shelter and shade. Old wooden rabbit hutches were used to house cats. During that first year, FOSCA built kennels and purchased stainless steel cat cages. Over the years it added more animal areas and office space.

Then tragedy struck. Floods in 1993 washed out the foundation of FOSCA’s makeshift shelter and the facility was condemned. The group moved -temporarily- to an empty warehouse which provided shelter but little peace and no quiet for animals and volunteers. The memory of the acoustical nightmare created by barking dogs housed in a virtual echo chamber still causes FOSCA veterans to wince. Despite the condition of the facility, volunteers gave each animal the best possible care and attention and worked constantly to raise money for a new shelter.

Two years prior to FOSCA’s move to the warehouse, another group of animal advocates was forming in neighboring Dana Point. This community’s portion of the Pacific Coast Highway was too often the scene of accidents for countless stray dogs. As with San Clemente, the ‘local’ animal control services were two hours away.

One late afternoon in 1991, a sheepdog ran across the busy highway and disappeared into the post office. A woman saw this and ran into the post office with food and water, but found the dog too aggressive, either from stress or injury, to handle. County animal control could not come before closing time, so the post office let the dog out the back door over public protest. As the dog ran back into freeway traffic, the woman knew she could not watch dogs continue to take their chances in the streets. After focusing the City Council’s attention on the problem, she ran an ad in the local newspaper to recruit fellow advocates. Animal Rescue Foundation of Dana Point (ARF) was formed by the 12 animal lovers who responded.

In January 1996, after 13 years of dedicated animal care and fundraising, FOSCA joined forces with ARF as well as the cities of San Clemente and Dana Point. In order to create a new and better facility, FOSCA raised more than $325,000 for basic construction and items needed for animal care. ARF raised an additional $70,000 toward construction. The ARF capital campaign (“A Ruff Over our Heads”) was chaired by Charles William ‘Bill’ Bergh, the great great nephew of Henry Bergh, founder of The ASPCA.

Seven months after the merger, the Coastal Animal Services Authority (CASA)/San Clemente Animal Shelter, a warm, wonderful place, opened. The shelter operates in a true partnership between CASA municipal staff, headed by Dolores Keyes; FOSCA, led by president Connie Barker; ARF, headed by President Kim Larson, and hundreds of caring volunteers. Volunteers walk dogs, make the cats purr, hop (exercise) the rabbits, staff the front office and keep the San Clemente Animal Shelter at peak performance every day.

The shelter’s new location is tucked into the scenic hillsides of San Clemente near a business park. Volunteers walk the dogs unmolested by traffic, but cautious of indigenous rattlesnakes and coyotes. The shelter is built in a U-shape, with bright offices in the middle, dog kennels down both sides, and the new Rabbitat and laundry room on opposite ends. Every day a few cats are rotated into the large playroom enclosures equipped with 9-foot scratching trees. There is a homelike cat ‘get acquainted’ room for potential adopters. Outside, large fenced exercise areas allow volunteers to socialize dogs and introduce them to the public.

The ASPCA Partnership Program with FOSCA focused on three areas: several on-site training sessions for staff and volunteers, assistance in building the new Rabbitat and humane education.

At most shelters, rabbits are treated as second-class citizens. The new Rabbitat, the doors of which opened in October 1997, changes all that. Funded by an anonymous FOSCA donor and with cages and flooring provided by The ASPCA, this climate-controlled building is equipped with 14 kennels ideally suited for rabbits. Now rabbits’ behavioral needs are met in comfortable cages, each equipped with a litter box, grass mats and various toys. Past FOSCA president, Jim Waples, was the driving force behind its construction.

Under the guidance of ASPCA Director of Humane Education, Julie Bank, a committee worked to initiate a humane education program. Additionally, more than 1,000 ASPCA Web of Life resource kits were distributed to all schools and libraries in the Capistrano Unified School District, which encompasses San Clemente and Dana Point. The ASPCA Web of Life is a curriculum-blended kit which uses hands-on activities and role playing to help elementary- school-age children understand humans’ connection to all life forms. More than 30 libraries received the ASPCA seven-book series, “Pet Guides for Kids.” Finally, The ASPCA presented the shelter with a $10,000 grant to support its new humane education program.

The ASPCA is committed to working with the San Clemente Animal Shelter in the years ahead. What began as a partnership is blossoming into a truly lasting friendship. The ‘A’s’ National Shelter Outreach department and Western Regional Office plan to expand this Shelter Partnership Program in 1998. Interested animal shelters in the western United States should contact National Shelter Outreach at the address below.

Shelter staffers wishing to share news of special programs or resources with readers should contact:
ASPCA National Shelter Outreach, 424 E. 92nd Street, New York, NY 10128-6804

ASPCA Animal Watch- Winter 1997

© ASPCA 1997

Courtesy of

424 East 92nd St.
New York, NY 10128-6804
(212) 876-7700


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