Helping Animals: Knowing Where to Donate is Key

Be careful where you put your money.




Donations, Dog Bites and News Bytes


Believe it or not, these three things have something in common: you have to pay attention to what’s going on or things may happen that you didn’t intend.


When you donate, who actually gets your money?

Your heart is in the right place and you want to help local animals in need, but do you know where your money actually goes? Whether you donate cash, bequeath an endowment or attend an event that is supporting an animal organization, keep reading to see where your money might go.


I am not saying you shouldn’t attend events or donate – just be aware of where your money is going so you can make an informed choice!

My sincere apologies…

I had heard something (from what I thought was a reliable source) that disturbed me. It worried me that the critters may never see the money donated for their benefit. Anyone who knows me, knows my main concern is the critters and not the politics.

My source gave me incorrect information (and an education). It also showed me that there is a fiercely loyal, dedicated group of volunteers out there. 

I apologize and I will try very hard not to let that happen again. If there is a problem, please educate me and post a polite note on patch.com to share a valid information source.

Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter (SCCAS) 

SCCAS is an “open door” shelter who will take in ANY animal, so they never know what situation they will find themselves in on any given day. Whether it is hundreds of cats or hundreds of reptiles, they will quickly house or find foster homes, provide medical care, and whatever else is needed.

SCCAS contracts out to local cities (Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Watsonville), and the county, who pay SCCAS to provide services. Each entity pays SCCAS according to their population, but they frequently have special needs (remember Robert Brunette’s 50+ dogs or the pet store that abandoned dozens of birds?) that requires more outgo than SCCAS has income. 

You can donate or bequest to SCCAS and the money goes into a special account, separate from their general budget. The Watsonville shelter will soon be getting a new overhang roof and new laundry facility with commercial equipment thanks to a large bequest from B. Jean Adams. You can even donate specifically to their new Pet Parenthood program, last chance medical fund, or any of their other programs. In the next week or two, I will introduce you to Melanie Sobel, the new shelter director, who is implementing a lot of new ideas.

Your donation to SCCAS is tax deductible. If you can’t afford a cash donation, they have a wish list of items they need.




Separate, yet supporting SCCAS is FOWAS (Friends of Watsonville Animal Services) and FOSCAA (Friends of Santa Cruz County Animals). You can donate/bequeath the money to FOWAS or FOSCCA who have programs for free spay/neuter, needed medical care, foster care and more. Both organizations have no paid positions, are volunteer-run 501c3 organizations, so your donation will also be tax-deductible.





The SPCA has so many great programs (which I listed in this column, along with the other local rescue organizations, a couple of weeks ago). They depend on volunteers and donations – no government grants. They have some paid positions and pay rent on facilities, but only spend about 12% on administrative costs.  The national organization – ASPCA (who is unrelated to our SPCA) – spends over 35% on admin costs. So who would YOU rather give your money to?

CAPE, Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, Project Purr, etc.

In my opinion, these are the angels in our animal world – it’s folks like you and me who open their hearts, their homes, their schedules, and their own wallets to help local critters. They are all volunteer-run with little or no facility costs. Donating to private 501c3 non-profits like these is tax-deductible and your money goes directly to support the animals – usually for food or medical costs.


Fundraising Events

You go to an event that boasts it will be donating all or part of the profits to an organization that supports animals… who REALLY gets the money? 

First, you have to realize that the donation is a percentage of the PROFITS – the money left AFTER the cost of putting on the event: venue charges, advertising costs, banners, posters, port-a-potties, security… any number of things.

If the event is “sponsored by” an organization, profits will go to the organization (minus costs). For instance, the Project Purr Rummage Sale – almost all profits went to Project Purr. Thanks to the generosity of the property owner, the use of the vacant lot was free (though Project Purr still has to pay for liability insurance), the goods are donated, and it is all-volunteer run. It’s a purr-fect event to support! In fact, the two rummage sales this year raised over $45,500 to spay/neuter feral cats for FREE!

A “sponsored by” event where tickets are sold, the ticket price is actually a donation and the ticket cost you donate/spend is tax-deductible and goes straight to the organization (minus event costs).  Most organizations will be careful with event spending in order to get as much money as it can for the organization.

On the other hand, if an event is “a fundraiser for” or “a benefit for” an organization, that event is being put on by someone other than the charitable organization. It may not be tax-deductible and you have no idea what else they are going to spend the money on or whether there will actually be any profits. Someone may be using your generosity as a way to make money or free advertising for themselves.

I was approached a couple of years ago by someone who wanted my help in setting up a movie screening. They wanted to charge $15 per person and donate 20% of the profits to the SPCA. I passed on it because it was a high ticket price and just not enough of a donation to the SPCA in my opinion.  

Some of the local events for dogs actually spend more money putting on the event than they donate. Promotional items, such as banners, yard signs, print advertising, etc. eat up all the profits. Sometimes I think it is a way to get free advertising for their for-profit business, which is featured on all the promotional materials. 

If the only reason you are attending an event is because it is a fundraiser, skip the event and donate directly to the organization so that ALL your donation goes to the charity of your choice.

The financial information for ALL 501c3 non-profits are available online! So if you are donating to Goodwill or SPCA, check to see where their money goes. Some non-profits have high administration costs, pay their directors high salaries, and very little ever gets to those in need.




Dog Bites

Recently, a man and his Malamute were attacked at Aptos Junior High by three off-leash pit bulls. The man ended up with 20 bite wounds and has to go thru the painful process of anti-rabies shots because the dogs were never found.

I’m not blaming the guy for wanting to defend his dog, but there are some things that bother me about this and I expect a few folks to disagree with me:

#1 - The owner of the Malamute got bit while trying to pry open the mouths of the attacking dogs. Hit or kick the other dog(s), but please don’t feed it your arm. In a future column, we’ll explore what you SHOULD do during a dog attack.

#2 - An incident like this gives ALL pit bulls a bad name and not all are “bad” dogs. Pitt bulls are just the current breed we love to hate. When I was younger, we hated German Shepherds, then Dobermans, then Rottweilers, etc. They said all the same things about those breeds that they now say about pit bulls. 

#3 – Regardless of the breed, three dogs form will a pack, may get a “mob mentality” and may not accept new members into the pack.

#4 - Being aware of your environment is the best way to protect your dog.


News Byte 

Watsonville City Council passed an amendment last week requiring documentation for all rabies vaccinations. Watsonville vets will be required to send a certificate to Animal Services within 30 days. Any dog that has been in Watsonville longer than 30 days, will be required to submit documentation to Animal Services. State law requires all dogs over the age of 4 months to be vaccinated for rabies. Santa Cruz County law requires dogs to be licensed and spayed/neutered.


Project Purr FREE Spay/Neuter of Feral Cats

Month of September


80% of kittens born in the county are feral! You can help! Just trap feral cats (Animal Services has traps you can borrow for free) and Project Purr will pay for the spay/neuter.


Wine & Wags… a fundraiser for the SPCA

Saturday, September 24 · 1 - 5pm

Poetic Cellars, 5000 N. Rodeo Gulch Rd., Soquel

Tickets: $10 for wine tasting and delectable delights for you

www.santacruzspca.org or 465-5000

You and your pooch are invited for an afternoon of wine tasting, munchies, a raffle, plus you can have your portrait taken by Portia Shao of Positive Vista Photography.


 An Evening with Ingrid Newkirk, president & co-founder of PETA

Monday, September 26 · 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Hilton Hotel, Scotts Valley

Tickets: $20/$10 http://ingridnewkirk.eventbrite.com/

Ms. Newkirk on and Kim Sturla, founder and director of Animal Place, will have a lively interview/discussion on current animal issues in the world today, then a Q and A session. Also includes a delicious vegan dessert. Proceeds benefit the many programs at CAPE.


 World Famous Popovich Comedy Pet Theater

Thursday, October 13 · 7:00pm - 10:00pm

The Rio Theater

1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, CA


The World Famous Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre is coming to Santa Cruz, and best of all, it will help raise much needed funds for our only local non-profit no-kill animal shelter —the Santa Cruz SPCA!

This show is too amazing and all the animals are rescued from shelters. Check out a clip on YouTube!

A percentage of the profits from tickets sales made through the link below will be donated to the Santa Cruz SPCA! Please note that ONLY tickets purchased using this link will benefit the animals of the Santa Cruz SPCA.

Adults: $23
Children under 12: $16
Tickets will NOT be sold at the door so get them online while they last!


Party for Paws

Saturday, October 22 · 4 - 7pm

The Marina Lounge, Fisherman’s Wharf

Monterey, CA

$30 per person (includes appetizers, live auction, raffle, live music,)


Benefits AFRP, FOCAS (Friends of Animal Services), Peace of Mind Dog Rescue and Salinas Animal Services.

Jean Vengua September 24, 2011 at 04:48 AM
That's too bad about the pit-bull attack. I have a rescued Staffordshire Terrier--similar to and sometimes mistaken for a pitbull. She's the most affectionate and loving dog (one of the positive traits of these dogs that people never mention) to all humans, but bad training by a previous owner makes her nervous and aggressive to other dogs. Anyone who unleashes THREE pitbulls together onto a schoolyard should know better. As for trying to pry open an *attacking* pit bull's mouth...? Whew. I never walk my dog unleashed or around other unleashed dogs. I always walk her in a large field where I can scan the area. And if another dog shows up, we head in the other direction.
Madeleine C. September 27, 2011 at 03:26 AM
I can't imagine any employee of the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter giving out such inaccurate information regarding donations to the shelter. However, it seems that it would be best for Ms Wilde to confirm that kind information before printing it and endangering the one organization in the community that is responsible for caring for all homeless animals that show up at its doors. I've volunteered at the County Animal Shelter for almost 5 years now and am continually amazed by the dedicated, caring staff who work with limited resources to find homes and help for our temporarily unwanted animals. I also donate to the County shelter and will continue to do so.
David Reese September 29, 2011 at 03:55 PM
Whitney - This article is so wrong in so many ways. Why on earth is it still online? You have a LOT of apologizing to do. At a minimum, I think you should be required to volunteer at the SCC Animal Shelter for one thousand hours, to help make up for all the damage you have done to the County's neediest animals. I hope you're proud of yourself. Sincerely, Dave (another volunteer from the SCCAS)


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