Friends of Newport Beach shelter band together to help needy animals


A group of local animal lovers has formalized its status as the nonprofit Friends of the Newport Beach Animal Shelter.

The boosters are raising money to improve life for the would-be pets under the care of the city’s animal-control division at its small, leased shelter in the Santa Ana Heights neighborhood. The funds can go toward a commercial washer and dryer for towels and blankets — or for advanced medical treatment for dogs like Daphne, a poodle mix who has diminished sight through her cloudy eyes, or Stanley, a Chihuahua mix who needs dental work and a mass removed from his shoulder.

For the record:

11:50 a.m. July 10, 2017

The original version of this article incorrectly referred to the Speak Up Newport forum as being affiliated with the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. Speak Up Newport is a separate organization.

In the long term, Friends leaders want a new building.

The organization’s board is stacked with veteran civic leaders who are deeply educated about city and nonprofit operations. They include Nancy Gardner, a former mayor; Jean Watt, a former councilwoman and longtime environmentalist who co-founded Stop Polluting Our Newport; and Evelyn Hart, a two-time mayor who spearheaded the building of the Oasis Senior Center.


The city is supportive of the animals in its care, Gardner said, but some need more, and more expensive, veterinary attention to make them adoptable. She doesn’t want any animals to go unadopted for lack of money.

“We want to make sure those funds are there,” she said.

Valerie Schomburg, Newport Beach’s animal-control supervisor, said the shelter is on track to take in about 550 animals this year. About half are lost pets who get reunited with their owners.

The shelter doesn’t euthanize for lack of space or because an animal is a long-timer, Schomburg said.

Most of its work is with dogs and cats. The shelter also has taken in rabbits, snakes and rodents — recently a woman brought in two tame rats that she said were darting around a Balboa Island alley, Schomburg said.

Once, there was a pigeon with a band that workers traced to owners in Iowa. And occasionally, wildlife in distress, such as a bobcat hit by a car in Newport Coast, will be held temporarily before going to specialized rescue organizations.

Schomburg knows her animals; they all have a story.

Tank, a shepherd-corgi mix with a long brindle coat, evaded animal-control officers for five months before being caught in a city public works yard.

Stanley, the Chihuahua mix, was relinquished to the city after his owner drew a six-month jail sentence. The dog has recovered from a skin condition that left him with bald patches. He’s fond of his cabin-shaped doghouse and is partial to animal crackers.

Daphne, the poodle mix, gave birth to a litter in the shelter. Her puppies have been adopted, but she’s still waiting.

In the cat room, the cage closest to the door houses Curry, a chatty tortoiseshell who donated blood to injured kittens.

Bubbles, age 2 months, has lived there for two weeks since being found alone in a bush in north Newport. He playfully swats through the bars at his next-door neighbor, a pocket-size calico named Lily.

The animal shelter has shared space for about a year and a half with the nonprofit Home Free Animal Sanctuary, which has its own no-kill dog rescue at 20302 Riverside Drive.

Newport moved its animal services there after the City Council ended its agreement with the Orange County Humane Society in late 2015 amid allegations by city staff of unsanitary and inhumane conditions at that shelter in Huntington Beach.

The council voted to pay $60,000 per year to Home Free to provide shelter, care for and feed animals found in Newport Beach by animal-control officers.

Newport Beach police Lt. Tom Fischbacher, who supervises the animal-control division, said the city believes every animal is adoptable. The shelter has a good adoption rate, Fischbacher said — the America’s Family Pet Expo at the county fairgrounds a couple of months ago led to 15 placements, emptying nearly every cage.

The street the shelter is on is zoned for kennels, so a concentration of trainers nearby has helped rehabilitate animals with behavioral issues, he added.

The animals are adopted quickly because they are well-cared-for, he said, and the fundraisers can improve that.

In addition to money, the Friends could use advisory board members and more volunteers, Gardner said. Volunteers can contact the group through its website,

The monthly Speak Up Newport forum on Wednesday will discuss the shelter and the Friends group. The forum will run from 6 to 7:10 p.m. in the Newport Beach Civic Center Community Room, 100 Civic Center Drive.

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