San Francisco’s newest dog shelter is getting ready to celebrate one year of saving all breeds of homeless dogs. The Family Dog Adoption Center, located at 16th Street and Alabama in San Francisco, is the brainchild of Angela Padilla, a former SF Commissioner of Animal Control and Welfare and longtime dog rescuer.
In early 2010, Padilla founded Northern California Family Dog Rescue (FDR), an all-breed rescue group dedicated to saving as many child-friendly dogs as possible from high-kill shelters from Bakersfield to the Oregon border. Family Dog Rescue gives first priority to dogs deemed unadoptable at San Francisco’s Animal Care and Control and other municipal shelters, and to owner-surrender dogs. From there, Family Dog pulls dogs from as many high-kill shelters as possible.
A mother of three young children, Padilla noticed that many shelters and rescue groups do not adopt dogs to families with young children, especially to families with toddlers. As a result, those families often resort to buying dogs from backyard breeders or over the Internet from puppy mills. Having fostered hundreds of child-friendly rescue dogs since 2003 with her partner Amy and their young children, Padilla realized that with proper selection, evaluation, and placement, many homeless dogs otherwise at risk for euthanasia could be adopted by loving people with children in their lives.
With so many dog-social, kid-friendly dogs ending up in shelters due to the country’s long-standing economic crisis, Padilla realized that the number of dogs needing to be rescued was fast exceeding the capacity of FDR’s large foster network. It was time to open a new shelter with a twist – one where dogs were not kenneled all day, but rather spent time in real-life rooms with supervision and went on sleep-overs with qualified volunteers. Furthermore, Padilla wanted to involve teenage volunteers who would be trained to help socialize the dogs to family life.
In a first-ever arrangement, the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF/SPCA) agreed to lease its former hearing dog program space to FDR. After two months of renovation, the organization opened its shelter doors. Mary Giuffrida, former canine program lead at Berkeley East Bay Humane Society, was recruited as Shelter Director. For Giuffrida, this was an incredible opportunity to create a holistic shelter program incorporating the best of enrichment activities for the dogs; volunteer participation by children, teenagers, and disabled people; and humane education for the public.
Giuffrida’s experience as a certified dog trainer allows Family Dog to rescue many marginalized dogs, such as deaf dogs, disabled dogs, and dogs with easily rehabilitated behavior problems like fear or shyness.
Colleen, rescued from San Francisco Animal Care & Control (SF/ACC)S is a typical case. She came from a hoarder who had numerous Chihuahuas, many of whom did not pass behavior testing due to their extreme fear issues. Since Colleen liked other dogs, she was housed in a room with several others, where she was visited every day by a stream of volunteers. She immediately began warming up to people and soon became attached to shelter staff. Within a few weeks, a wonderful woman with a disability adopted Colleen, and they now travel around the city together in a first-rate wheelchair.
In addition to saving the lives of individual dogs, Family Dog is dedicated to eliminating the root causes of dog abandonment and homelessness. Family Dog and Padilla have joined together to fund low-cost spay/neuter for other dog and cat rescue groups, and for residents of under-served neighborhoods throughout San Francisco.
Family Dog’s innovative “Kids Committee” for youth ages 9-16 participates in adoption events, dog socialization, and educating a new generation about the importance of spay/neuter and responsible dog ownership. The group also provides technical support to an international partner in Guatemala, Unidos Para Los Animales, to help develop a model dog rescue organization in a country where dog rescue and adoption are virtually unknown.
Family Dog’s goal is to save 500 canine lives each year. Its next fundraiser on November 9 features many of San Francisco’s legendary drag queens in a multimedia show at The Public Works, 161 Erie Street (at Mission), San Francisco. Tickets are $25. Full details on the events page at www.norcalfamilydogrescue.com.
Angela Padilla and her partner Amy live in the Mission District with their three small children and five dogs, two Malamutes, a Husky, a Cocker Spaniel, and a blind Pekingese. Mary Giuffrida is a certified dog trainer who lives in Vallejo with her husband and her "Chowbrador," Canella.