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TimesOC Check-in: Animal Assistance League of Orange County keeps focus on those in its care

The Animal Assistance League of Orange County
The Animal Assistance League of Orange County has been taking care of dogs and cats since 1973.
(Courtesy of Animal Assistance League of Orange County)

Our leaders remind us that it’s important to check in with each other, even as we’re sheltering at home and practicing responsible social distancing. In this ongoing series, TimesOC checks in with small businesses and non-profits in Orange County during the coronavirus pandemic.

What: Animal Assistance League of Orange County

When: Founded in 1973

Where: 15102 Jackson St., Midway City

Background: Kathy Alberti, the shelter’s treasurer, said the no-kill shelter in its infancy was founded by a group of women — Anne Burton, Ruth Frankel, Bunty Johnson and Eleanor Page — who got together to find lost pets and reunite them with their owners. The shelter was incorporated in 1973 and currently operates out of a small facility in Midway City.

The shelter is largely run by its 25 volunteers but also has five part-time employees. They take care of the 60 cats and 20 dogs onsite. The shelter has a few other dogs in foster homes. Operations are handled by a five-person board of directors, which Alberti sits on.

The Animal Assistance League is a true community shelter, offering a helpline and pet aid program to provide residents with guidance on pet-related issues.

“We really try to help people as much as we can,” Alberti said.

The Animal Assistance League of Orange County
The Animal Assistance League of Orange County runs a small shelter in Midway City.
(Courtesy of Animal Assistance League of Orange County)

Current Status: The shelter is suspending adoptions for the time being to keep the staff safe. They also are not accepting new volunteers.

“We are a small place, and we want to protect our employees because our employees take care of our animals,” Alberti said. “It’s important everybody be safe and healthy. We are telling people right now for the next several weeks we are not having people come to the kennel to visit animals. We need to make sure everybody is safe.”

The shelter is continuing to do important work, tending to the animals in its care, and under special circumstances, taking in new ones. About two weeks ago, it took in a new dog, Maxwell, who was found wandering in a park.

“This little dog he was so badly matted he looked like a brown dog because he was covered with dirt and feces,” Alberti said. “At first we didn’t know if he had any eyes, he was so bad.”

After being cleaned up and treated, staff found out Maxwell was actually a gray and white schnauzer mix. Maxwell currently has a host of issues that need to be treated, including bad teeth and a problem with the musculature of his jaw.

“We are taking it step by step,” Alberti said. “Eventually, we hope somebody might want him.”

Maxwell before being treated by the Animal Assistance League of Orange County.
(Courtesy of Animal Assistance League of Orange County)

Challenges: Alberti said the primary issue is lack of donations, which the shelter depends on. Furthermore, they depend on money raised from big events, and they’ve had to cancel an event in April due to the virus.

But they are trying to make the best with what they have.

“We are just trying to scramble to make the best of it,” Alberti said. “At the end of all of this, there are animals that depend on us. We have to do the best we can.”

Alberti isn’t alarmed.

“Personally, I don’t feel panicked right now,” she said. “I think our animals are safe. Nothing is going to happen to them. If they get sick, we will take care of them.”

Another challenge the shelter workers face is psychological — working at a shelter can be emotionally taxing.

But Alberti finds solace in the work.

“Sometimes you ask yourself why you do all of this, because it’s a lot of work and it can be very depressing sometimes,” Alberti said. “But you do it for little guys like Maxwell.

“Everybody should try to make a little difference in this world if they can. That’s my choice and the others who work here too.”

Maxwell after being treated by the Animal Assistance League of Orange County.
(Courtesy of Animal Assistance League of Orange County)

What would help: The public can donate by visiting aaloc.org or sponsoring an animal by sending an email to aaloc@aaloc.org.

People can also volunteer to sponsor Maxwell.

Overall Mood: “We all love these animals, so that keeps us going,” Alberti said. “You see somebody like Maxwell and you think you are going to do what you have to do, and you just do it. You don’t think about what else is going on really because you are focused on that animal.

“Because we work with these animals it probably helps, it keeps you focused. You have your job to do.”

For more information, visit aaloc.org.

For more stories about how Orange County is coping, follow our TimesOC Check-ins. Suggestions for us? If you’d like to recommend a business, nonprofit or self-employed individual with a story worth highlighting, please fill our Google survey.

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