Hundreds of animals crowd SBCC for Wags n’ Whiskers festival

Ryan P. Cruz, Staff Writer

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Dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds took over the West Campus Lawn Saturday, for a day full of pet-friendly activities at the 11th annual Wags n’ Whisker festival.

C.A.R.E.4Paws hosted the event to raise awareness for homeless animals and advocated for adoption by inviting numerous animal groups who brought adoptable pets.

“We’re here to celebrate the animal welfare community,” said C.A.R.E.4Paws board president Chris Harris.

With over 1600 attendees and more than 45 animals adopted into new homes, executive director Isabelle Gullo said that the event continues to grow.

“There’s a record number of animal groups,” said Gullo. “We’ve really seen an increase. I’m super thrilled.”

Several organizations offered animals for adoption, like the San Diego based Greyhound Adoption Center, which rescues dogs that had often been used as race dogs south of the border in Tijuana, Mexico.

Ben Regester, the group’s representative, painted a picture of what life was like for a racing dog.

“They usually spend up to 23 hours a day in a crate. They eat in the crate, sleep and go to the bathroom in the same crate,” Regester said.

He said the dogs’ crates get hosed down once a day with a diluted bleach mixture that often left the animals with chemical burns, like those on the two rescued greyhounds they had available, Sprout and Staney.

“It’s really sad,” Regester said. “When they are retired, they are usually killed, so we try to maintain relationships with racing tracks to make sure we can save as many as possible.” 

The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department brought some K-9 service dogs to show how they are put to use in special operations.

“We have five dogs with the department,” said deputy Philip Farley, who is partnered with a 5-year-old german shepherd named Odin. “They can be used to find missing persons, or locating suspects in search and seizure situations.”

Besides dogs and cats, a variety of animals were available for adoption at the event, including goats, chickens, ducks, and rabbits.

The Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary brought three striking birds, whose ear-piercing screams can reach up to 135 decibels.

“They can be loud because they are so protective,” said Katie Wilson, a volunteer at the sanctuary. “They form mate bonds… It’s a very intimate relationship.”

Wilson said that although it takes the right person to care for large birds, it can be a unique and rewarding experience.

“They talk, they dance, they have a sense of humor and love to play,” said Wilson.

Besides the adoptions, many groups were promoting unique services for pets and owners alike.

Cat Therapy, a cat cafe located in downtown Santa Barbara, offers a chance to snuggle with kittens as a form of relieving stress and anxiety.

“We have 20-30 cats rescued from euthanasia,” said Alex Buckley, an employee with the company. “Cats are different, they can read your energy, they love to play.”

After the event, director Isabelle Gullo reflected on a record-setting day, with more adoptions than any other year.

“It was our most successful festival so far, and the best part is knowing that so many animals got to go home with their new forever families.”

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