Blue, a 9-week-old husky mix with warm brown eyes and seemingly oversized paws, was recently dumped on the side of a desert highway, along with his friend Buck, a shepherd mix of the same age.
Abandoned and left to fend for themselves, the pups were discovered and rescued by a friend of local animal caretaker Gina Kantzabedian, who took them in despite her rescue center’s poor economic state.
“I rescue about 40 dogs that are left on the side of the road each year,” Kantzabedian said. “Most of them are only 3 to 4 weeks old. Most other rescues come from puppy mills in the saddest conditions you’ve ever seen, or are given up by people who aren’t able to take care of them.”
The animal lover has devoted more than 20 years to saving pets’ lives through her Animal Crackers Pet Rescue organization, whose mission is to rescue adoptable pets and place them with loving families.
The nonprofit, which is supported by proceeds from the pet supply store, is now about two months away from closing its doors.
“I’m in no position to take in more rescues, but people in this community know I care too much about the animals to refuse them,” Kantzabedian said.
As she conveys her passion for saving pets — and the graveness of the situation — her eyes well up.
“I know this is why I was put on the Earth, but I can only do so much,” she said. “I only have so much room and financial resources to support this effort.”
Since the Coastline Pilot last published an article in May about Animal Crackers’ financial hardships and the need to attract more shoppers, the only thing that seems to have increased, Kantzabedian said, is the number of abandoned pets left in her care.
In addition, her landlords raised the store’s rent 10%, she said.
“Just today, I had someone open the front door to my store and just leave a puppy without so much as a word or even a note,” she said. “I’ve also had seven ‘Christmas gift’ pets dropped off here because pet stores wouldn’t allow returns.
“People don’t realize that pets are like children; don’t take on the responsibility if you’re not prepared to care for them.”
While Kantzabedian said she greatly appreciates the “generous donations” she has received from Coastline readers — even some from folks who don’t own pets — she is seeking a long-term solution.
“About 90% of my adoptive parents are from Laguna,” she said. “If these people bought their pet supplies from my store, it would be enough to keep my doors open and the rescue efforts going.”
An advocator of supporting local businesses, she said she doesn’t understand why attracting shoppers has been such a struggle.
“If we love this town and want it to thrive, we need to support each other and the local mom and pop shops that make it so special,” she said. “It makes me so sad because I’m serving a purpose and not even looking to profit — I’m just trying to make enough to pay the rent so I can keep rescuing pets.”
To help support Animal Crackers’ rescue efforts, shop at the store, where all proceeds will benefit the pets.
Donations can also be mailed to 30822 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA 92651.