Sky Valencia, TPM’s Pet Rescue RockStars
Sky Valencia is the founder of St. Martin’s Animal Foundation. Since 1999, St. Martin’s has been doing children’s outreach and education. The foundation seeks to change children’s outlook towards their environment and the animals they share it with. They work to inspire children towards positive action as well as preventing abusive behavior toward animals. By playing an instrumental role in the positive upbringing of today’s children, Sky hopes they’ll inspire others.
For all Sky Valencia does for pet rescue, she’s a TPM Pet Rescue RockStar! Sky graciously answered TPM’s questions below.
TPM: Can you tell us about your first pet rescue?
My most memorable rescue was in 2001 when I saved a sweet, young Doberman. I was doing an outreach program with our team at a church in the inner city. We were signing up families for free spay and neuter vouchers. I had just been hired by the city of LA to do a six month program to help low income families who could not speak English spay and neuter their pets . The out-reach was doing very well, we were saving a lot of lives and expanding our out-reach all over Los Angeles.
Even though we are a non denominational charity, because of our name St. Martin’s Animal Foundation, the Hispanic community trusted us. The priests would actually let us speak about animal abuse and the importance of spay and neutering on stage. Jackie David, from The Dept Of Animal Services chose our charity because our team was always speaking in front of city council, pleading that we needed a Spanish speaking out-reach program to stop the over breeding and dog-fighting .
Our out-reach program consisted of 6-7 smart Spanish speaking activists. Two ladies would dress-up like Disney characters to attract the kids and their parents. We would ask the families question like ‘Where does your pet sleep at night? What are you feeding your pet? Does your dog have an ID tag? Do you know of any animal abuse going on in the neighborhood?’ Then we would set up appointments for their dogs or cats to be sterilized and do follow ups on the abusive issues. (The city of LA alone kills over 30,000 healthy dogs and cats every year due to over breeding and neglect.) This inner city outreach program saved many lives.
One day as families were coming up to ask us questions, a girl said that she needed me to follow her home. She explained that there was a dog living in the bushes and he had been there for a few weeks. I told her as soon as we were done I would follow her home to check it out .When I got to her neighborhood, I started snooping around and it was just awful!
Some of her neighbors were drug dealers and had mistreated dogs tethered to doorways on short chains, one dog had a litters of puppies. The poor mother dog had her chain so short she couldn’t reach her pups to nurse them. The pups were sick and had ticks covering their bodies.
The neighbor next door was teaching pit bull puppies how to fight. In the back of his truck there was a pile of dead bunnies. He was starving the pups and training them to kill the bunnies for food. The young girl had two dogs chained in her yard too. She had found them and didn’t want them getting hurt by the gangsters in her area.
Then she lead me to see the dog in the bushes. I was shocked to find out that the neighborhood gang had shot off his ankle. The poor dog had wounds all over his body and he was only 6 months old. The pup was so afraid of the daylight that he would run from bush to bush in fear of being abused again. The girl said she was feeding him bread everyday.
I called animal regulations and they sent over an officer to help me put the doberman pup into my car. I told them about all the other abuse going on in the neighborhood too. Then I contacted an emergency veterinary hospital near by and drove as fast as I could to get help.
When I arrived, all the veterinarians gathered around the pup. They were upset to see the puppy’s bad condition. They took him off my hands and began immediate care. I was afraid that this was going to cost a fortune for his treatment and amputation. Luckily the gods were kind and the veterinarian fell in love with the doberman and adopted him. The operation and treatment was free. I went to visit the puppy a few months later and he was running great. He had a new buddy who was a cocker spaniel and they loved each-other.
That was the year I decided to start an aggressive children’s humane out-reach program in the inner city. Which has now expanded into other parts of California.
What is the best part of pet rescue?
The best part is helping young dogs who can’t walk, walk again. We have done this many times. Some puppies are born with swimmers syndrome and can’t stand up, so we rehabilitated them with massages, extra vitamins and help them gain strength by walking them with harnesses.
Once they start running it’s truly heartwarming. Most swimmer puppies are killed at the city shelters. Also rescuing dogs and cats from dangerous and abusive situations and getting them into responsible, loving homes is a great feeling too.
One female pit bull can produce 13 puppies. Most of the puppies will be used for breeding, fighting, bait dogs or lonely guard dogs. Only a few will find forever homes because people breed them for money and adopt them to families that don’t understand the breed. Then the poor dog is dumped at an over-crowed shelter with no hope of rescue, because he or she is misbehaved. That is why we are killing so many pit bulls at the local animal shelters today.
What is your biggest challenge in pet rescue?
Stopping the horrific dog and cat meat trade. We have worked very hard to raise awareness with celebrity speakers and petitions. The only way to end this abusive trade is to prove to countries like China, Korea, Indonesia and Thailand that eating dog meat is very unhealthy. To beat, skin and boil these dogs and cats alive before consumption will not make the meat better. That is a down right lie.
We also need to have stricter anti-breeding laws in effect worldwide. This is well over due and I will NEVER understand why this is so hard to get accomplished. We are killing millions of adoptable animals yearly and it costs the tax payers a lot of money to house and kill all these animals.
Most rescue groups are overwhelmed, struggling with too many homeless dogs and cats to handle. The final struggle is getting enough donations to feed, house and get medical care for so many neglected animals every year. It’s important to be business savvy if you want to help animals and educate the masses.
What are some misconceptions about the work you do in pet rescue?
I believe most people don’t realize what a tough skin you need to have to run a non-profit animal rescue. You witness a lot of abuse, you need to try to change the mind set of abusive people.
If that isn’t tough enough, many rescue groups slander each-other like teenagers. I found out that it’s very important to stay strong, focused and never work with rescue groups that gossip. This negative behavior throws you off track, it’s a waste of time and energy.
After over 15 years of rescue I’ve learned to partner only with organizations that are the real deal. The true movers and shakers of the rescue community, those who have already accomplished amazing things for the animals.
What inspires you and keeps you going in pet rescue?
Our children’s out-reach programs inspire me. Its wonderful to educate 500 to 800 students per assembly with our health and humane programs. It’s thrilling to see these young students becoming activists of our future. You can see and feel that these children want to change their world for the better. They don’t want to live in an abusive world that kills dogs and cats due to over breeding and mistreatment. The children give me hope that things will change soon and that animal abuse will one day be a thing of the past. Seeing more and more students eating a plant based diet is very exciting as well.
Do you have any advice for people who want to get involved in pet rescue?
If you want to be the founder of your own rescue group, you need to have a great support system. A board of directors, a support committee and plenty of reliable volunteers. People who can really donate their time and help you with expertise such as lawyers, social media experts, financial experts, veterinarians, graphic artists, grant writers.
For those who are interested in joining our charity instead, they can fill out a volunteer form and help us with adoptions, grooming, feeding and walking the animals. If they are creative, they can be on support committees and help with fundraisers and out-reach programs.
If you’d like to help Sky Valencia and St. Martin’s Animal Foundation, you’ll find more information here.
For more celebration and inspiration, see all of our Pet Rescue RockStars.