Calif. Group Brings Life-saving Model to Global Shelters

April 2, 2008 | By Annabella Asvik | Category: Care & Safety | 178 comments
Tags: care & safety, dogs, cats

RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. -- A major dilemma of many animal loving shelter employees is the inability to find alternatives to euthanasia. A California shelter aims to change that, and by doing so set an example the world can follow.

Mike Arms is the president of Helen Woodward Animal Center. His mission is to save the life of every orphaned animal.

“This little puppy, she’s 20 pounds already,” said Arms as he held the pup. “She was rescued from Arizona, came across state lines just so she could have another chance of life and we are willing to give it to her.”

He’s dedicated to finding the little pooch a safe and happy home -- a task that is often mired by a lack of human compassion.

“We know that adopting a pet - this is a life saving business and we run it as a business,” he said. “You are not going to get families to adopt unless they know that these great little animals are here. So we use the media a lot to promote the animals through special programs.”

Each week, Arms’ animals get their 15 seconds of fame on TV. The effort, said Arms, is geared toward giving exposure to animals that have never been given a chance.

“…We do not devalue our animals, if you want to adopt this little animal; it will cost you $230. She is worth something,” he explained during an interview with Pet Pulse.

While serving as Director of the North Shore Animal League, his previous animal-saving role, Arms created two major programs to increase adoptions and awareness. Pet Adopt-a-thon and Home for the Holidays helped more than 400,000 animals find homes during his 20 year tenure there.

He’s applied the same principles at Helen Woodward Animal Center, creating new ways to raise funds and save lives.

One such program, a Surf-a-Thon competition, pits brave canines against one another on California’s shores.

Last year, 40 dogs competed, raising $40,000. This year, the HWAC will host surf camps for dogs to get them ready for the competition. It’s an all-around good time with a great outcome -- saving animals’

But that’s not all HWAC does for its’ animals.

“We service about 20,000 people in our community with our pet encounter therapy as well,” said an HWAC employee. “We also have a huge equine facility and education programs with critter camp and those actually allow us to generate more funds for the facility to keep it running.”

Every other month, HWAC invites shelter workers around the world to come for a three-day conference. It’s part of their Animal Center Educational Services program, through which other shelter workers learn more about the business of saving lives.

“We started inviting organizations here to teach them how to fundraise so they can have money to help the orphans,” said Arms. “We teach them how to market, so they can increase their adoptions through the media, increase adoptions and decrease euthanasia.”

And that’s not all. The conference provides training on setting up day camps for kids to learn about animals – a revenue boosting venture.

“We teach them how to recruit and manage volunteers,” he said “… everything from A to Z about animal shelters so we can make the world a better place for animals.”

The weekend conference is free, and in the last two years, shelter workers from as far as India, China, and Egypt, have learned about becoming a no-kill shelter.

And the program continues to grow.

“I take what I do very seriously,” said Arms. “Those lives are very precious.”

For more information on Helen Woodward Animal Center, go to

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Matt Van Hoven, Pet Pulse, contributed to this story.

Comments (113)

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6 years ago

Great to read about new ideas for helping animals

Good Point | Reply ›

Terry F.

Terry F.
6 years ago

A surfing that's thinking outside the box!

Good Point | Reply ›

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