In 1986, FOCAS (Friends of County Animal Shelters) was the only animal rescue organization to work exclusively with San Diego County’s three shelters; over the next 25 years, FOCAS found homes for more than 8,000 shelter dogs and cats, and today there are approximately 160 animal rescue groups in San Diego County that are following in their footsteps – and none of this would have been possible without the incredible efforts of La Jollan Peggy Howell, the La Jolla Veterinary Hospital, and the Rancho Coastal Humane Society.
This year’s Paws & Pints Fundraiser honors Peggy’s continuing legacy and raises money for an organization that continues the fight for shelter animals’ lives.
Friends of County Animal Shelters
Peggy co-founded FOCAS in the early 1980s with Sue Geller; by 1986 it was officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization. It was, and still is, one of the nation’s most significant nonprofit rescue organizations, and their mission has remained true over the years: to better the lives of animals.
FOCAS removes animals from the three shelters in San Diego and places them into foster homes, eventually seeing to their placement in forever homes. This creates more room in the shelters, stops overcrowding, and helps to prevent euthanasia practices – the organization focuses on animals with treatable medical conditions that are not “highly adoptable” and therefore more likely to be euthanized.
Devoted Friend, Animal Lover, & Philanthropist
Peggy Howell was a passionate and generous animal lover; she never let a stray go hungry and devoted a majority of her life to animal rescue. She was close with everyone at the La Jolla Veterinary Hospital, and before she died in 2013 the staff promised her it would keep FOCAS in La Jolla, where it was founded.
“She was grassroots – the real deal. Everything you can think of to describe an animal lover – that was Peggy” says Stephanie, Hospital Manager at La Jolla Vet and close friend of Peggy’s. At one point Peggy had 30 animals of her own; she had actually turned her attic into a cattery!
A Duck’s Tale
Stephanie’s favorite memory of Peggy is a profound testament to the lengths – and sincerity – of her dedication. Peggy had (rather notoriously) been feeding the same two ducks down by the water in La Jolla for 5 years. One day, she noticed one of them was limping; concerned, she returned the next day with a carrier, determined to get the animal checked out. She actually managed to get the duck into the carrier and brought it into La Jolla Vet – the poor duck had a piece of fishing wire wrapped around its leg, and a giant gash to prove it. Turned out the little guy needed antibiotics for two weeks!
Peggy was unfazed; she returned dutifully the next day with medicine in tow, and put his antibiotics into a piece of bread every day for the next two weeks until the medicine was gone.
The annual Paws & Pints Fundraiser is dedicated to Peggy and the organization she built from the ground up back in the 80s. A portion of every year’s proceeds go to FOCAS, and the event will again be held at the La Jolla Brewing Company – complete with delicious brews and tasty bites. The event will begin at 6:30pm on Thursday May 28, and there will be live and silent auctions, a raffle, and of course, plenty of food and drink. Several things will be given away, including a downtown hotel package, a night at the Omni Hotel, several MCASD art pieces (they donated seven pieces for the occasion), Bird Rock fine wine, and more.
Another organization that benefits animal charities – specifically FOCAS and the Rancho Coastal Humane Society – is Ark Antiques on Girard Ave in La Jolla. In total, they have raised more than $1.7 million for their animal-friendly beneficiaries.
For more information about the event, go to pawsandpintslajolla.com or call La Jolla Veterinary Hospital at (858) 454-6155.
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