Something paw-fect this way comes. Several upcoming events and new funding from the Albert and Anna Herdina Memorial Fund for Animals will shine the spotlight even brighter on the stellar efforts of Animal Samaritans, which continues its valiant attempts to save at-risk shelter animals and the adoptions of thousands of cats and dogs.

Saturday, Oct. 21 was the date for the 3rd Annual BARKtober at The River in Rancho Mirage. Attendees were invited to bring their pet(s) in costume and enter a Halloween costume contest. Three top prizes were awarded, and attendees met cute adoptable pets. 

Another annual event keeps generating momentum. Animal Samaritans 14th Annual “Men of the Desert Fashion Show & Luncheon,returned to the Palm Springs Air Museum on Sunday, Dec. 3. The popular event features plenty of dogs and slick-clad dudes in designer fashions. All proceeds for the event benefit Animal Samaritans Animal Rescue Program, which, to date, has saved more than 15,000 adoptable, at-risk dogs and cats. 

Beyond these annual event, Animal Samaritans continues to make strides. The 501(c)(3) organization was launched in 1978, offering the first free humane education program and low-cost spay and neuter clinic to Coachella Valley. The ultimate goal: eliminating the suffering and abuse of homeless and unwanted animals.

To that end, Animal Samaritans has an impressive array of programs and services. The Animal Companion Therapy program stands out, offering visits to special needs classrooms, local hospitals, and various nursing homes. Among the other standouts in the organization is its No-Kill Shelter, Animal Rescue, Humane Education, and unique Foster Program. Unique animal sheltering, affordable spay and neutering services, vaccinations and top-notch vet care also filter into the mix.

Meanwhile, Animal Samaritans recently received a grant from the Albert and Anna Herdina Memorial Fund for Animals through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The grant provides financial support to low-income individuals with animals in need of veterinary care.

“The funding is geared to assist older pet owners,” says Animal Samaritan CEO Tom Snyder. “Pet owners aged 66 and older are going to benefit, and the foundation wants us to allocate at least 25 percent of that to the cause of spay and neutering. 

“There is an awareness of the need to fight the overpopulation of unwanted dogs and cats that often end up in animal shelters, and due to overcrowding or being on the streets or disease, they end up adding to the high euthanasia rates at public shelters,” he adds. “That leaves the remaining 75 percent to assist those senior pet owners with the medical care for their pets.”

Snyder quickly points out how finances can be a barrier for keeping an animal in the event they may have been attacked by another dog or became loose in the yard, or a myriad of other challenges. 

“All these can be fatal outcomes to the animal, but are treatable,” Snyder says. “The Albert and Anna Herdina Memorial Fund for Animals allows us to provide financial aid to the senior pet owners who want to keep their pet, but maybe they can’t afford the surgery or the treatment, whatever the case might be.”

He goes on to note that Animal Samaritans determines how much an individual can pay, then vets their income. To honor the grant, the non-profit looks to the individual’s age. “Sometimes they say, ‘I can’t pay anything, I’m just paycheck to paycheck.’ Sometimes people want to give as much as they can, so if it’s a $1,000 bill, we may say, ‘Okay, we’ll cover the other 50 percent. We want the money to last as long as we can for the year that we have it.” 

Snyder says the organization is discerning and diligent with the grant, so they can assist as many animals and pet owners as possible. 

“As a non-profit that runs veterinary clinics, it’s essential that we have these types of grants to allow our doctors to care for these pets that otherwise wouldn’t get the care they need,” Snyder shares. “It’s important for us to staff a medical facility and animal facility with really competent doctors and surgeons and support staff.”

When asked what he would more people to know about Animal Samaritans, Snyder is candid. “I think a lot of pet owners just think of us as a veterinary clinic, or a place that provides affordable spay-neuter because that’s where they had their pet spayed or neutered after they picked it up from the pound,” he says. “There is some confusion about the Riverside County Animal Shelter or the pound and Animal Samaritans.”

They are two separate entities, in fact. One is government-funded/taxpayer-funded, and one is a non-profit organization. 

“We do a lot—we have an animal rescue program, a pet therapy program, education programs, and more,” Snyder adds. “We have a multi-pronged approach to improving the lives of animals and people. And depending on where you’ve met us, you might just think we only do one thing, but we do a lot.”

This story originally appeared in the Desert Sun November 2023.

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