By Darlene Donloe
It’s reigning cats and dogs at the Pet Adoption Fund, an all-breed, private, nonprofit, no-kill, cat and dog rescue organization and adoption center.
It’s a place where the dignity of cats and dogs is protected while the animals are given a chance to find a forever home or live out their days at the center.
Maggie Turner became the president of the organization six years ago after the organization’s founder, Kay Duffy, died. Turner became the chairwoman of the organization in October 2013.
“I’ve been doing rescue work for a long time,” said Turner, a married mother to two fur babies, a beagle, and a red tick coonhound. “What brought me here was my husband and I had rescued animals from the organization many years prior. We had been supporting the organization for years. My beagle got me started with rescue dogs.”
Incorporated in 1983, the mission of Pet Adoption Fund is to rescue homeless dogs and cats from city and county shelters, as well as dogs and cats who are abandoned, and those whose guardians can no longer care for them. The goal is to place the homeless dogs and cats that are rescued into loving, adoptive, forever homes
Since its inception, Pet Adoption Fund has helped shelter, rehabilitate and find happy homes for the thousands of dogs and cats rescued from high-kill shelters, and from owners who could no longer care for their companion animals. The organization is staffed primarily by volunteers and exists solely on donations.
All of the dogs and cats in Pet Adoption Fund’s care are spayed or neutered, bathed, micro-chipped and vaccinated before being placed in their adoptive new homes. Pet Adoption Fund wants to educate the public about the importance of spaying and neutering companion animals in order to reduce the overpopulation of unwanted dogs and cats.
“We have had dogs for more than 10 years before they found homes,” Turner said. “It can be due to behavioral issues or medical issues or because it’s a certain breed or has a characteristic that took it longer to find a forever home.”
For instance, Turner said because of their reputation, pit bulls take a long time, especially when they are not good with other dogs. She said some dogs that have medical issues could also take time to place because people “don’t want to get involved” with a dog that has to take a lot of medication or has a lot of medical issues.
“It can still be a lifelong pet,” she said.
Luckily for the animals, Pet Adoption Fund has a low percentage of returns.
“We do a process,” Turner said. “There is an application process to make sure we are making a good match. We safeguard by doing more due diligence. We don’t want heartbreaking situations later on. We want to ensure the animals have a safe place for life. For dogs, the return rate is under 8%. For cats, it’s between 5 and 8 %.”
Turner said some people return their animals because they are being forced to move.
“For some it’s economics,” she said. “They can’t take the animal where they are moving to. Sometimes it’s a behavioral issue or, for some, it’s a monetary issue.”
When COVID-19 hit, there was an increase in pet owners.
“COVID was a big game-changer,” Turner said. “Pre-COVID, there were more dogs. During COVID, we placed a record number of cats. Now, we’re having a hard time finding cats that need to be rescued. That’s a good thing.
“People were home-based for so long. Cats are more independent than dogs. We’ve always placed more dogs than cats.”
At any given time, Pet Adoption Fund can take care of 85 dogs and 50 cats.
“We are a large organization,” Turner said. “We have good space. We are one of the largest organizations of our kind. It’s our mission.”
When it comes to pet adoption, Turner said everyone should know “it is a lifetime commitment.”
“You have to do homework and think it through and make sure you’re ready,” she said. It’s not a temporary situation. They are living animals with feelings. You might have a few bumps along the way.
“Get involved with training or get help. Not all animals are perfect. You have to commit to a rescue. It’s not always an instantaneous transition.”
The biggest mistake some people make when adopting a pet, Turner said, is not giving the animal time to explore its new home.
“They don’t give the pet time to acclimate and adjust in the home,” Turner said. “Some people give up quickly and return the animal without giving the animal time.”
Pet Adoption Fund, which has housed thousands of animals throughout the years, conducts follow-up calls for every adoption.
“We also offer a certified behaviorist, who gives help free of charge over the phone,” Turner said. “We also have a cat volunteer.”
Turner’s love of animals can be traced back to when she was a little girl.
“As a child, I couldn’t have a dog where we lived,” she said. “I loved the neighborhood dogs. I used to walk them. My parents said when we moved I could get a dog.
“I got my first dog at 11,” she added. “I was responsible for the dog, but my mom helped. I walked it and fed it. As years went by, I began to love cats and horses. I think it’s just in my DNA.”
At the end of the day, Turner is proud of her small staff, the organization’s dedicated volunteers, and the work that they do saving cats and dogs.
“When you are doing a labor of love, you have good days and bad days,” she said. “You keep doing it because the good days outweigh the bad days.
“When you place an animal that’s hard to place, it’s the best feeling in the world. You made a difference in that pet’s life. There are so many rewards. Our wonderful founder was a selfless and dedicated woman. I’m proud to take the reins and continue her legacy.”
“Making a Difference” is a weekly feature profiling organizations that are serving their communities. To propose a “Making a Difference” profile, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.