Making a Difference in the Lives of Homeless Pets in the Bay Area: San Jose Animal Advocates

Melissa and one of her inspirations
behind  SJAA, Newbie
I had the good fortune to reconnect with Melissa Lisbon, principle co-founder of the San Jose Animal Advocates (SJAA), whose goal is to support local Bay Area shelters and rescue groups.  Melissa and I have known each other for years, so when it became apparent that we both doing something about our passion for pet-related issues, I had to talk with her about what she has been up to:

SP: What's SJAA's mission and how long have you been around? 
ML: We are an advocacy group which helps promote the efforts of our local animal rescue groups and local shelter through community events, fundraisers and other promotional venues.  San Jose Animal Advocates was established back in March 2010.

SP: What was your inspiration for the group?  
ML: The idea of creating this group came from discussions with my other co-founders about how we could make more of a difference in the lives of homeless animals in our neighborhood, and our city.  We all had been involved in volunteering at local shelters, fostering animals, feeding feral cat colonies and yet when we spoke to our neighbors, many were clueless about the pet overpopulation in our city.  Furthermore, it became clear that most people we spoke to didn't know where our local animal shelter was!

e participated in our first community event in July 2010 and invited a bunch of local animal rescue group representatives to come to our table and answer questions from the community. The event was a great success, and I feel like that experience was the inspiration to create an advocacy group which could help educate the community about homeless pets and promote our local shelter and rescue groups.

SP: How have you gotten the word out?
ML: We try to leverage social media to the fullest by maintaining a Facebook page for SJAA and a twitter account.  We also have a website and maintain a mailing list which is comprised of people who have signed up, at our events, to stay in contact with us.  Fortunately, we have also had some press coverage at some of our events.  The old fashion way of simply talking to our neighbors works too.

I personally am on the San Jose shelter's daily Needs Rescue list which goes out to our area rescue groups with a list of animals that need rescuing.  Where I can, I try to help the shelter make the rescue groups aware of these animals.  As you can imagine being one of the largest municipally run open admission shelters in California, the sheer number of incoming animals is overwhelming.

From what I can see there are a fair number of senior dogs (as well as senior cats) who find themselves on the Needs Rescue list.  Fortunately, we have a wonderful animal rescue group called Muttville based in San Francisco which focuses on saving senior dogs from area shelters and placing them in loving homes.  They are very strong advocates for senior dogs, and I have hope that one day there will be a "Muttville" in San Jose.

SP: Any other thoughts? 
ML: One of SJAA's goals is to give much needed exposure to shelter pets in general.  These pets have done nothing wrong and are sadly waiting for someone to come save them.  Unfortunately the statistics show that not enough of these deserving pets get out alive since many shelters don't have the adequate resources to advocate for the pets that come through their doors.

For senior dogs, the problem is even worse since we live in a society that is seduced by having something "new".  Ironically when it comes to a puppy, our society doesn't have the time to dedicate to the proper training and physical needs puppies require.  I feel that senior dogs offer so many advantages to people looking to adopt a dog, and yet, they don't get the exposure they need.  We hope to work toward changing perceptions of shelter animals in general, and revealing all of the amazing qualities these animals possess.  

Senior dogs need to have their moment in the sun, and we look forward to collaborating with organizations that already see what gems these dogs are, and how they put us in back in touch with our humanity.

SP: Where do you see the group going?
ML: SJAA is currently recruiting volunteers in a wide area disciplines so that we can strengthen our presence both at community events and online.  We are excited to formally launch a new initiative called the Last Chance Pet Project which will involve aggressive promotion of local shelter pets who have run out of time at the shelter.  Lastly, we look forward to supporting our local animal rescue groups with a variety of services as well as make it easier for new rescue groups get off the ground.  It's all about trying to save more homeless animals lives! 

I, for one, am excited to see where SJAA goes next and want to thank Melissa once again for her efforts.

If you're in the Bay Area and are interested in pitching in, Melissa can be contacted at: