Summer Impact on Animal Welfare Organizations


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As the temperatures rise in Southern California, animal welfare organizations across the region are preparing for their own unique set of challenges. Whether it be an uptick in intakes, pivoting enrichment plans to cater to summer weather, emergency disaster/evacuation plans, or ramping up adoption promotions, one thing is for sure—animal shelters and rescues don’t slow down. Community pets are counting on them, and these organizations are counting on you to help them continue their life-saving efforts.

The Coachella Valley is one area that experiences extreme temperatures early on in the season, driving many seasonal residents to escape to cooler climates—this departure impacts volunteer support and fundraising in multiple ways. We checked in with three of the Coachella Valley’s shelters and rescues to learn how the summer season impacts their life-saving efforts, and how you can help.


Animal Samaritans

Animal Samaritans offers multiple services to the Coachella Valley community, including a no-kill animal shelter, humane education programs, affordable veterinary clinics, and an Animal Companion Therapy (ACT) program that serves residents of nursing home facilities, area hospitals, and other facilities.

Animal Samaritans Shelter Supervisor Sally Fuentes shares that people do adopt pets during the summer, but that the shelter generally sees an increase of incoming stray and abandoned animals each summer, as well. Another challenge is that seasonal residents depart for the summer, leaving the organization in need of summer volunteers. “Our Snowbirds return home and that does impact the shelter,” Fuentes explains. “They are not just volunteers that help at the shelter, but they also foster and donate monies and items like food, litter and, of course, their time.”

The summer heat also limits outdoor play and enrichment time for the animals, but the play yard is equipped with misters and kiddie pools, and shelter volunteers and staff take care to only walk the dogs during cool mornings. Sally says the biggest need right now is “a commitment from a dedicated trainer to work with the shelter pets—these animals deserve proper training and the room to conduct that training.”

Get involved with Animal Samaritans by visiting their website for information on how to become a volunteer, donate items, funding at You can also donate items via their Amazon Wishlist:


Living Free is a non-profit animal sanctuary located in Idyllwild, California, whose primary mission is to rescue dogs and cats whose time is up at public shelters. They are also home to War Horse Creek, an immersive transition training program using rescued wild mustangs to assist veterans as they adjust to civilian life.

Despite being located in a popular tourist area, pet adoptions do tend to decrease during the summer months; however, Living Free Animal Sanctuary is preparing to slowly start opening up for tours again after having been closed to public tours since the start of the pandemic. Marketing Coordinator Sophia Dean says, “The organization is curating a more extensive tour experience for visitors that will include being driven around the property. This will make touring the facility and visiting animals easier during the summer months.”

As for the animals, the heat has a big impact on walks and play groups, so the kennel staff and volunteers try to take the dogs out as early as possible before the sun gets too high, and play yards are kept cool with shade and misters. As for the horses, the stable staff make sure to exercise them in the early morning.

One of the biggest risks facing the organization each year is being in area at high risk for wildfires; thus, the organization asks for contributions to help them build up emergency preparedness kits. Pet travel carriers are also needed, especially those specifically for cats. Donors can also visit their wish lists on Amazon and to help stock the shelves with other much needed supplies. To see other ways to donate and learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit their website at


Located in North Palm Springs, the Humane Society of the Desert is one of Southern California’s largest no-kill animal sanctuaries. During the summer season, playtime gets started early and includes misters and kiddie pools to ensure safe exercise time, followed by bath time for many of the pups. Humane Society of the Desert board member Malinda Bustos shares that pet adoptions do decrease during the summer months, so the doors are opened to visitors Wednesday thru Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

In addition, the organization’s social media platforms provide opportunities to promote adoptable pets and daily happenings at the sanctuary.

Donations are always needed, and during the summer, items at the top of the list include:

■ Kiddie pools

■ Garden hoses and spray nozzles

■ Dog treats

■ Dog leashes

To learn more about how you can support the Humane Society of the Desert by becoming a volunteer, adopting a pet, or making a donation, visit their website at

Neighboring Organizations

Other areas of Southern California, even those in slightly cooler regions, face their own challenges during the summer months.

San Diego Humane Society

San Diego Humane Society, an open-admission shelter, is creating a more humane world by inspiring compassion and advancing the welfare of animals and people. Their lifesaving safety net has helped San Diego become the largest city in the U.S. to keep healthy and treatable shelter animals from being euthanized.


With campuses in El Cajon, Escondido, Oceanside, Ramona and San Diego, the organization provides animal services for 14 cities within San Diego County. They care for more than 50,000 animals and provide innovative programming to further support their mission. We spoke to President and CEO of San Diego Humane Society, Gary Weitzman, DVM, to learn more about how the summer season impacts their work, and how others can help.

“During the summer season, San Diego Humane Society typically sees a big increase in animals come into care— companion and wild. Since the start of the year 2021, when we had about 600 companion animals in care, we now have nearly 1,800. The same trend is true for wildlife. At the beginning of the year, San Diego Humane Society cared for just over 200 wild animals at our two wildlife facilities, the Pilar & Chuck Bahde Wildlife Center in San Diego and the Ramona Wildlife Center in Ramona, versus more than 1,400 in June. This is very typical, as baby season starts in the early spring and San Diego Humane Society will see many of those animals come into care.”

While adoptions typically peak in the summer months, so do calls for other services provided by the San Diego Humane Society’s Humane Law Enforcement, including rescuing of injured wildlife and an increase in snake calls. Rattlesnakes are most active April through September. If you spot one in San Diego, call 619- 299-7012 and Humane Society Officers will respond within 30 minutes to relocate rattlesnakes.

Weitzman says being located in Southern California, San Diego Humane Society’s Emergency Response Team is typically responding to wildfires during the summer season, “It used to be that fire season started in the fall—now it is year round and heat-dependent.”

San Diego Humane Society’s Fire Animal Search and Rescue (FASAR) unit provides tactical personnel and scene management during rescue missions and conducts small animal rescues in a fire environment. The FASAR unit is trained to operate behind fire lines and is comprised of Animal Emergency Response Team Leaders, Rescue and Scouts.

During hot days, San Diego Humane Society’s animal caretakers and volunteers take extra precaution by taking dogs out for walks during the cooler parts of day, ensuring they have shade in their play yards and extra water bowls filled with water. When it comes to enrichment, the animals are treated with extra frozen treats, such as frozen meat balls, flavored ice cubes, frozen veggies, and frozen Kongs.

San Diego Humane Society accepts donations year-round. A few items that are always needed include:

■ Wet and dry dog and cat food

■ Collars

■ Leashes

■ Kurunda beds

■ Flea medication, which is especially important during the summer months!

Weitzman says, “San Diego Humane Society could not provide the high level of care to our animals if it wasn’t for our amazing volunteers — more than 5,000 of them! There are so many different ways to volunteer — in person at a campus, as a foster, as a member of our Emergency Response Team or via Community Engagement.”

To learn more about the ways you can help, visit the website at And visit to learn more about the organization.

Annenberg PetSpace

Annenberg PetSpace is a unique community space featuring an interactive place for pet adoptions, an education center, and a leadership institute. Annenberg PetSpace focuses squarely on the mutually beneficial and dynamic bond between people and their pets, as well as the origins and science of that relationship.

Located in Playa Del Vista, California, the weather is typically mild, although temperatures can and do rise to dangerous levels during the height of the summer months. Animal Care Manager Courtney Stone says, “During those times, dog enrichment is modified to cooler activities like kiddie pools in the play yard and in-kennel enrichment.”

While adoptions tend to increase during the summer, the season also brings an influx of kittens to the Los Angeles area, and to help with the increase of kittens in shelters, Stone says, “We work with fosters who can take in a litter, and give them extra care and attention while they develop at a young age. It helps us to take more animals off the hands of our partner organizations to give them more space to do their lifesaving work, too.”

Annenberg PetSpace also steps up to assist when fires occur, taking in additional adoptable pets to help other organizations clear space in their own facilities for animals that are displaced during disasters.

Most importantly, Annenberg PetSpace is always looking to connect with more people looking to adopt as well. “The more we can celebrate the human-animal bond through pet adoption, the more animals we can help find forever homes,” reports Courtney.

To learn more about Annenberg PetSpace, including how to volunteer and donate, visit

Orange County Animal Shelter

The Orange County Animal Shelter serves over 14 cities located in Orange County, providing animal care, a pet food pantry, spay and neuter clinics, and other services that support the people and pets of the community while promoting responsible pet ownership.

Orange County Animal Shelter Assistant Director Monica Schmidt says, “During the summer months, OC Animal Care receives a large influx of kittens—most of which are underage and need bottle feeding. This time of year, we are in critical need of experienced kitten foster homes in addition to essential supplies, such as Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR), kitten bottles, kitty litter, and kitten warming pads.”


As we move into the dog days of summer, OC Animal Care may adjust activities for pet safety during the high temperatures—for example, shorten walks and play groups as needed. They are fortunate to have climate-controlled kennels for all of the animals, which include A/C to keep everyone cool.

With pandemic protocols changing, OC Animal Care is excited to onboard new volunteers to help throughout the shelter, particularly in areas such as the on-site kitten nursery, dog playgroups, walks, and enrichment; and program administrative support, and foster families.

For more information, including Amazon wish lists, visit

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Alicia Bailey
Alicia Bailey
Alicia Bailey is a writer specializing in animal welfare topics and issues. Prior to writing full time she spent 13+ years working in rescue and animal sheltering, holding leadership roles in both. She has worked with numerous local and national non-profit organizations including Best Friends Animal Society, NKLA, The Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Coachella Valley Animal Campus, and many others. Alicia is mom to 3 uniquely abled dogs, including @LittleBoogieShoes & @Bust.A.Moves.


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