Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rick Klomhaus, DVM and Esmerelda Torres, Registered Veterinary Nurse, assisting Archie

Revered anthropologist Jane Goodall once noted: “You cannot share your life with a dog or a cat, and not know perfectly well that animals have personalities and minds and feelings.”

Animal Samaritans understand this fact all too well and, for more than four decades, has generated a sea of change in the ways animals are being cared for in Coachella Valley. Now the area’s largest, most comprehensive, animal welfare organization, it has to date overseen the rescue of more than 14,000 at-risk shelter animals and the adoptions of more than 10,000 homeless cats and dogs.

And yet, the organization is just getting started in many ways.

In 2019, Animal Samaritans paid off its loan to a Thousand Palms veterinary clinic, thereby making it a debt-free entity. In 2020, expanding its Indio vet clinic established greater impact. And the road ahead holds promise with the construction of its highly anticipated Pet Adoption and Humane Education Center.

Architectural rendering of Pet Adoption and Humane Education Center

“We’re very excited about that,” says Animal Samaritans CEO Tom Snyder. “We also have a lot of different charitable financial aid programs for our veterinary services. People may not be aware that we have a double board-certified veterinary oncologist on our staff now. Pet owners dealing with stress and worry of a pet with cancer can see a doctor here rather than having to go outside the area, whether it’s to Orange County, San Diego, or L.A. There’s a lot happening here.”

Other programs stand out. Animal Companion Therapy, for instance, has been heralded for its healing curricula, offering animal companionship as a form of cost-effective treatment for individuals in need. Silver Paws offers financial aid to seniors on fixed budgets when their animal companions need care they cannot afford. The organization’s two clinics provide a wide variety of veterinary services, priced for affordability.

Innovation is key, Snyder says, pointing out the addition of a canine behaviorist for the organization.

“They’re really hard to find in the Coachella Valley,” he notes. “We are now laying the groundwork for the staffing and that’s really important because ‘behaviors’ are often a major barrier for some pets getting adopted.”

He adds that designated gifts help in achieving our “vision of having a better place for the animals where they can thrive, and then getting the training they need to become someone’s pets.”

Recently, Animal Samaritans received a grant from the Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF) through the150 Circle of Giving fund.

Snyder shares that the funding will assist in the organization’s capital campaign and with creating a covered canine play yard, which will be used for behavior training area. “This addition will significant,” he says. “And it really ties into out multi-pronged approach to animal welfare.”

One significant example of the organization’s success in that multi-pronged approach is through education, specifically by providing state-accredited humane education to the area’s schools at no cost to the students or the schools.

With so many good intentions splashing out of the doggie bowl, is there one thing Snyder’s appreciates most about being with Animal Samaritans?

“I love working with animals,” he says. “I’m with a dog or a cat every day. It may be a shelter pet, it may be an employee’s pet — our admin or admin staff can bring their dogs into the office. Or it may even be an animal that’s at the shelter, getting service. So, I can interact with animals daily and that’s a great stress reliever.

“One of the nice things about owning a pet is that it gives us an opportunity to calm our nerves, slower our heart rate, decrease cortisol in our system, and just make us smile,” he adds. “And I get to smile a lot.”

To donate, or for more information about the Animal Samaritans, visit animalsamaritans.org.

This story originally appeared in the Desert Sun, July 2022.

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