To kick off the "Home for the Holidays" campaign, seven animal shelters across Santa Barbara County are waiving adoption fees for dogs and cats 6 months and older starting Black Friday.
It usually costs anywhere between $65 to $125 to adopt either a dog or cat, or $100 on average, but customers are invited to take advantage of being able to take home a pet for free until Sunday.
The “Black Friday Sale” will help to clear space at the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society, Santa Barbara Humane Society, Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society and the Animal Assistance Shelter Program, all of which accepted transfers of animals from Ventura County. Though Santa Barbara County Animal Services did not receive animals from facilities impacted by the wildfires, it also will waive adoption fees through the weekend at its three shelters, which are located in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Barbara.
"This year is our first time ever opening the shelter on Black Friday," said Santa Maria Valley Humane Society Executive Director Sean Hawkins. "All the shelters in the county have been so generous and collaborative in our efforts to partner with our colleagues in Ventura County," which recently was devastated by the Woolsey fire.
In an effort to open up shelter space in Ventura County due to an inundation of evacuated pets due to wildfires, the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society took in dogs and cats that were already in the shelters prior to the fire, Hawkins said.
"None of the animals that got evacuated due to the fire are here. Our goal in transferring pets from Ventura is so the shelters down there can have extra space to take in animals that have been evacuated," Hawkins added. "Our goal is to always keep pets and families close together."
Hawkins said his staff are doing "triple duties all weekend" to handle a flurry of customers they expect to walk through the doors during the weekend.
The Santa Maria Valley Humane Society, located at 1687 W. Stowell Road, will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Adopters will have to meet usual adoption requirements, and families adopting pets are being asked to bring a collar and leash for dogs or a carrier for cats. Those items also can be purchased on site.
It seemed like a great idea to open during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, said Hawkins, because "the logic is, when families are off work, children are out of school, [so] they can come adopt a new pet together. We want it to be a family experience."
Hawkins added the shelter aims to be flexible with its holiday hours, extending operating time to 6 p.m. and, also, opening on Sundays.
"Extending business hours at the shelter has helped adoption rates triple from last year's numbers, he said. "We'd average about 33 adoptions a month, but now, we average 104 per month," Hawkins said. Since the start of November, the shelter helped 74 pets so far find good homes."
There are three dogs in particular the shelter staff hope are adopted during the "Black Friday Sale" -- three pit bulls named Lucky, Jasmine and Whiskey. All three dogs have been in the shelter for 204 days, 179 days and 104 days, respectively.
It's a rarity for animals to be in shelters for that long, said Hawkins, as the average time span for an animal to be adopted is no more than 30 days.
"We really hope all three find good homes. The longer they're in shelters, the harder it gets for them," he added.
"We want to be a lean, mean adoption machine and save as many pets as we can, and adopting is really the best contribution you can make in the community when you're looking for a pet," Hawkins continued. "We want to encourage people to adopt a homeless animal because while they may have a mixed pedigree, they're thoroughly evaluated, spayed, neutered, vaccinated and microchipped."
Customer Jill Williman had just gotten off work from Lowe's on Friday morning when she decided to look for a Chihuahua mix that she saw on the Humane Society website Monday. However, she didn't even know about the adoption fee waiver for Black Friday until she came into the shelter.
"They informed me with the good news, so it just really worked out for me," said Williman, who wanted to bring home a friend to her 11-year-old greyhound GG, which stands for "Good Girl."
Williman has been on the fence for years about bringing home a friend for GG but finally took the plunge Friday.
"I think she'll be a good match for both of us," said Williman, as she hugged her newly adopted dog, Jackie.
Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210
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