By Angelina Kanno
“We don’t ask people to give up grandma or a child when in crisis, pets should be included there as family too,” Darlene Geekie told Valley News Group.
Little Angels Project was founded by Geekie, a Registered Veterinary Technician, in 2016. As the owner of Veterinary Angels Medical Center and a genuine animal lover, she saw an urgent need to give aid to low-income families and those who have been affected by natural disasters. Hernandez was painfully aware of the need in the community to provide care to the under-served to keep their pets healthy, so she formed the nonprofit to provide resources to those in need.
Little Angels Project provides free and low-cost veterinary care to seniors, veterans, low-income, victims of domestic violence and the unhoused with pets through free community clinics
The goal is to reduce owner surrender for medical and financial need. It is estimated that 20% of animals surrendered to shelters are for medical needs. Unfortunately if a rescue does not pull that animal in for treatment, 80% of those animals are euthanized, according to Yvette Berke, Little Angels Outreach Coordinator.
“If the owner loves the pet and wants to keep that pet, but is unable to afford the unexpected expense to treat an illness, we are able to provide some funds towards care or treatment via our mobile wellness clinics,” she said. “For me personally, as a senior I have been taking in cats that were abandoned at shelters for medical needs for many years. People who couldn’t afford a $3,500 dental bill and surrendered a cat, or a cat that needed thyroid medication twice a day that they were ‘just too busy’ to handle. For animals that are loved by their owners and want to keep them, they needed a safety net to help. The vehicle that had been used for our prior adoption operation and for disaster response was traded in for a new van and completely redone thanks to an amazing donor who believed in our work. We then set out in the community to do mobile care.” Berke said.
“When we are not doing a clinic we are still working. We have received calls from veterans about their PTSD or assistance dogs being sick and needing help and we get them that help. We get a call from someone who has fled domestic violence and taken their pet, but the shelter needs proof of vaccination so it can stay – we respond to that need too,” she explained.
The Little Angels Project are also first responders for animals during disasters.
“Whether we treated 300 animals impacted by the Woolsey Fire or 75 animals after the Ridgecrest Earthquake, the care was 100% free. Pets are our family and especially during the stress of a disaster you should not have to give up the love and comfort of that family member because of finances,” Berke said.
When the Thomas Fire struck Ventura County in 2016, Hernandez was one of the first to respond with a team of vet techs and veterinarians to treat the animals who were impacted.
“By the time the Woolsey fire hit, the organization was able to have an established network to call upon to help,” Berke said.
“During Woolsey we treated many burn victims. We reached out to universities doing work in the field for an assist on products that were in testing and we worked with other clinics to take in our overflow. We had been evacuated from our clinic in Agoura Hills and once we could return we shifted from a field hospital to our own hospital. I remember at one point I was assisting a vet debride the burns of a cat who we called Malibu. It was my first time doing anything like that but as the “cat whisperer” of our organization I felt it was a privilege and honor to help in the care. Holding this precious animal while a vet carefully and skillfully treated its painful burns was a mix of tears and awe for me. That cat survived and was adopted, by someone other than me!” she laughed.
Not only in emergencies, but also day to day, a critical need is to get pets spayed and neutered. That action alone will reduce the numbers in shelters that are not getting adopted or that end up euthanized.
“Our future expansion that we are fundraising for is a mobile surgical vehicle to be able to do dental work and other procedures as well as to be a critical part of our disaster response. There will be an earthquake, there will be fires, we will need to be better prepared to help then too,” Berke said.
Little Angels is holding an online auction through November 12. “Our online auction is going to support our efforts by raising funds and awareness for what we do, and it isn’t just for domestic animals as we provide support for local injured wildlife as well. The auction has a wonderful range of items from high end trips to handmade blankets as well as fabulous gift baskets for pet lovers,” Berke said.
“We are always looking for host locations to hold our clinics. Our next clinic is November 5 in North Hollywood and people can register on our website and check for future dates as well. We certainly welcome vet techs and veterinarians who want to give back to the community and join us to provide services. There is so much need and we understand that vets are in many cases overworked now, but every time one volunteers with us, and we can pay a stipend for them if needed, they all say they are inspired and rejuvenated by working with us,” Berke said.
If companies want to help sponsor, they can reach out to Berke anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 515-5461.
Anyone interested in donating can go to littleangelsproject.org/donations or can mail their donation to the organiztion at 29348 Roadside Dr. Agoura Hills, CA 9130l.