Jean McCoy felt she needed to make a difference in the lives of shelter animals. She saw how frustrated shelter workers were becoming due to the increase in the number of strays coming in and how many animals had to be put down. So she opened up her heart, and her store, to help shelter pets find their forever homes.
What McCoy does is neither easy nor cheap. She goes to the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center every week and finds cats who need homes. She takes them to the vet, has them spayed or neutered, microchipped, and updated on vaccinations. McCoy then brings these grateful animals back to her pet boutique, To Wag For, in Santa Monica where she puts them up for adoption. She pays for this out of her own pocket and does it out of the goodness of her heart.
A representative from the Baldwin Park Animal Center says that McCoy is “a very nice lady” and that she “really helps out some of the kitties here.”
“It’s tough because the shelters here are very, very overcrowded,” says McCoy of Los Angeles County animal shelters, which have one of the highest animal intake rates in the country.
McCoy says that it is not uncommon for boxes of animals to be dropped off at the shelter in Pomona in the short time she is there picking up cats. Although McCoy has three dogs and considers herself a dog person, she has been primarily rescuing cats.
“Cats are easier to work with,” explains McCoy. “Usually when I work with a dog, I just do one at a time, but with cats I have the space to do more at once.”
McCoy uses her own pet boutique to keep the animals while they are up for adoption. When the store closes for the night, she either brings them home or they are fostered with another family. Her hope is that when people come into her store to buy pet food, toys, and leashes, they will fall in love with one of her rescues.
Before she began bringing dogs and cats to her store, McCoy would hang their pictures up, and keep the animals in foster homes.
“It made a huge difference when I started bringing them into the store instead of just posting pictures from the shelter,” says McCoy. “They also seem to get adopted quicker when there are more of them instead of just one or two.”
Still, she knows that she cannot keep this up, but she is hopeful to be recognized as a 501(c)(3) in early 2012.
“The bottom line is that I can’t keep doing this, this way,” says McCoy. “These animals mean a lot to me, but I just can’t afford to keep paying all of these vet bills.”
Money is an issue for many more people than just McCoy, and she knows that.
“It has been good and bad,” says McCoy. “It has been a learning experience, and it’s been rewarding getting to know the people that I work with now. Their hearts are in the right place, but they are limited by the lack of resources and the increasing number of animals that come in every day.”
McCoy believes the best way people can help the animal overpopulation problem is to have their pets spayed or neutered, donate to their local animal shelters, and when thinking about getting a pet—rescue one from a shelter.