Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue needs your help

Minimoo, one of the many cats saved by Give Me Shelter, San Francisco’s largest independent cat rescue. Photo: GIVE ME SHELTER

I was thrilled to hear that the Nine Lives Foundation, which I featured on the Pet Page recently (“Nine Lives Foundation loses lease,” May 2016), will be able to stay in their home on Rolison Road in Redwood City after the landlords had a change of heart (originally, they wanted to boot the no-kill cat shelter to seek higher paying tech tenants).

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, as part of their new agreement, Nine Lives will be required to do more than half a million dollars in upgrades to the

interior, which hasn’t been touched in half a century. If you’d like to make a donation, visit For more information on the Nine Lives Foundation, e-mail, call 650-368-1365, or visit

Now another one of my favorite nonprofits, Give Me Shelter (GMS), is in dire straits. Founded in 2003 by Lana Bajsel, GMS has stepped up time and time again as the largest cat rescue in San Francisco. With a small band of devoted volunteers, GMS pulls cats from death row, provides behavioral intervention, and offers medical care along with a safe haven while cats await their forever homes. When our friend Mary lost her senior cat, she was devastated, but like me with my beloved pit bull Jazzy, she realized that letting another animal die in a shelter wasn’t going to honor her beloved companion or bring him back, so she decided to adopt again right away. Mary’s last cat was a “tuxedo” (black and white with a white chest bib), so that was on her wish list. She also needed a mellow cat that would be happy living indoors at the senior care home where she now resides. I called GMS and within days, Mary had the perfect kitty — a petite, formerly stray tuxedo girl who greets caretakers in the hallway and spends hours purring in Mary’s lap. Without GMS, this little love bug and others like her would have likely been euthanized due to middle age and the lack of space at perpetually overcrowded shelters. In 2015, GMS nearly doubled their adoption rates.

Besides finding homes for cats, GMS focuses on spaying and neutering (the only real way to end the nearly four million deaths in American shelters each year). Because of the cost of those surgeries and the large medical bills for older and special needs cats, the group’s expenses have skyrocketed. Right now, Give Me Shelter is trying to raise $20,000 through crowd sourcing. If you’re a cat lover and you can help (no amount is too small), please visit to make a donation online. You can also make a donation on the Give Me Shelter website at, or mail donations to: Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue, P.O. Box 411013, San Francisco, CA 94141.

It upsets me to no end that animal rescue organizations in the nation’s wealthiest city are struggling to stay afloat. We also have one of the richest privately funded SPCAs on the planet, which doesn’t do nearly enough. In 2009, I wrote a cover story for Northside San Francisco magazine called “How the San Francisco SPCA let us down.” I focused on the fact that the city’s grassroots rescue groups save many more animals than the SFSPCA does, and yet the SFSPCA, with its powerful P.R. machine, receives millions in donations while nickeling and diming the rescue groups. After my article, the president and vice president stepped down and things at the SFSPCA got better, but there are still major problems.

One of the biggest issues for me is why the SFSPCA doesn’t deeply discount veterinary care for the independent rescues, without whom their precious “live release rates” (which they tout to get those donations) would be much lower. Better yet, the SFSPCA’s state-of-the-art, multimillion-dollar veterinary hospital contributes big bucks to their bottom line, so why not treat the rescues as partners instead of clients and offer free medical care? Further, why doesn’t the SFSPCA set aside some of their millions and offer grants to local rescues? It would be pocket change for the SFSPCA, but it would make a world of difference to the grassroots organizations and the animals they work so hard to save.

According to Charity Navigator, in 2014 (the most recent report available) the SFSPCA had total revenue of nearly $30 million and an after-expenses excess of $1,576,230. Co-presidents Jason Walthall and Jennifer Scarlett (why do they need two presidents?) made a combined salary of $430,856. The organization also had net assets of nearly $92 million. If you’re planning to donate to the SFSPCA, please consider instead helping one of the hardworking independent rescue groups like Give

Me Shelter, or San Francisco’s struggling city shelter ACC via its nonprofit arm, Friends of SFACC ( You’ll make a far bigger and more direct impact on the homeless animals of San Francisco — and you’ll save a lot more lives.


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