Column: Newport Beach nonprofit will help local animals, but there’s a delay at City Hall

Daily Pilot columnist Barbara Venezia took a portrait with her dogs, Rocco and Stasha, at Dogma Dog Portraits in Costa Mesa.
(Photo by David Capron)

This week my column has gone to the dogs, literally.

As a doggie mama of two rescues, Stasha and Rocco, I’m firmly behind the efforts of a new nonprofit in town, Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter (FONBAS).

The group formed last fall.

Money raised by FONBAS goes to augment the city-run shelter at 20302 Riverside Drive, make animals more comfortable and adoptable, upgrade cages, provide additional medical and dental care and the like.


They also hope to launch a capital campaign to either buy the current shelter or another building.

The board consists of Tim Stoaks (my neighbor), Jean Watt, Walt Howald, Jonathan Langford, Evelyn Hart and Nancy Gardner. Newport police Lt. Tom Fischbacher is the city’s liaison.

Hart is in charge of forming an advisory board — which I agreed to serve on — and we built a website at

After months of organizing, the group has raised more than $30,000 just by word of mouth. On Oct. 28, there is FONBAS’ first official fundraiser, a “Howl-O-Ween” costume party for dogs at Marina Park, 1600 W. Balboa Blvd., from 10 a.m. to noon.


Prizes will be awarded for scariest, prettiest and “most Newport Beach” costumes. Awards will also go to best owner/pet ensemble, best trick and most personality.

The event is free and will feature Vladae the World Famous Russian Dog Wizard offering training tips. There will also be dog adoption opportunities from the shelter and refreshments for people and pets.

But here’s the catch: Though this seems to be a great public-private partnership with the city for a good cause, Newport hasn’t signed the simple three-page agreement FONBAS presented via the Police Department and Fischbacher in August.

Without an official agreement, the nonprofit can’t legally give money to the city or obtain insurance, according to Stoaks.

I read the document. It’s pretty much based on the same agreement the city has with Friends of Oasis and Friends of the Library.

Seeing nothing controversial in it, I asked City Manager Dave Kiff and City Attorney Aaron Harp about the holdup.

Kiff apologized for the delay and assured it will get on a City Council agenda shortly. Kiff also applauded the efforts of FONBAS and hopes to attend the fundraiser.

I guess the wheels of government turn slower than those of passionate volunteers. But, agreement or not, the event is moving forward as planned.


I’ll be there with my two fur babies in their matching pumpkin sweaters.

Stasha has volunteered to be a judge for the costume contest, as she’s far more media savvy than Rocco.

And speaking of media savvy, Stasha is used to having her picture taken. Rocco isn’t, so I wondered how he’d do during a recent photoshoot at Dogma Pet Portraits on Superior Avenue in Costa Mesa.

Turns out he’s a ham, as Dogma owner David Capron discovered.

Since 2010, Capron, a professional for 16 years, has been taking pictures of dogs.

Capron tells me he started with Emotion Portraits Studio in 2005.

“Nearly every time we made a family portrait, there was a dog in it, and over the years we’ve sold as many portraits of dogs as we have of kids,” he told me.

Along with his wife, Sylvaine, the couple switched their business concept “to address the needs of our four-legged friends and their humans,” Capron said.


They really have this doggie photography down to a science.

During the initial design appointment, about a week before your photoshoot, he gets both you and your dog comfortable in the studio. You can pick a package.

The photoshoot itself was fun. Capron was great with Stasha and Rocco as he coaxed them into poses using treats.

Next there’s the sales and ordering appointment, where you see a slideshow of photos and pick artwork.

On the home page of their website,, is a video explaining the process and photos of previous clients.

During our photoshoot I enjoyed getting to know this creative couple. It was obvious they love what they do. They’ve photographed more than 2,000 dogs and enjoyed all those photoshoots, they told me. They’re still in touch with many clients, whom they can call friends.

I can believe that. They both made me and my dogs so comfortable.

Capron said he is in a business where he gets to provide something that’s “more than just a thing.”

“We capture memories, emotions and moments in time, which, for obvious reasons, is so very important in your life with a dog,” he explained.

Looking at the photos he took of my two, I felt the images really captured their essence of wonder and fun.

I just hope Stasha and Rocco don’t start barking about wanting modeling agents now.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at