PLEASANTON -- Eileen the three-legged cat is a top example of the type of pet that would be helped by the new Paws in Need nonprofit group serving the Tri-Valley.
Eileen's back left leg was badly injured when she was hit by a car, but her owners did not have the money to take her to the veterinarian. Sadly, the leg got so bad that it ultimately had to be amputated, an operation funded by the new nonprofit.
"Now, she's healthy and happy," said Karen Simon, of the nonprofit's board of directors. "Four-legged animals don't miss one leg. They do super-well with just three legs."
Paws in Need includes the Jackie Barnett's Just Like New program, which has helped dozens of pets since it was founded in 1995 by retired Pleasanton teacher Jackie Barnett. Just Like New previously operated under the umbrella of the much larger Valley Humane Society.
The organizers of Just Like New, who carried on after Barnett's 2009 death, realized they need more exposure. Thus, they struck out on their own to join forces with local residents who have been offering spay and neuter services and launched a whole new nonprofit -- Paws in Need.
"In order for us to really expand and get more visibility for Just Like New, we felt like it was a good idea to get together with the ladies who were doing the spay/neuter and start our own nonprofit," Simon explained. "We want to expand the program, focus on it and get more visibility to get donations."
The good news is that an anonymous donor has offered to match all December donations dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000 to help launch the new nonprofit, she said.
"If you need a tax write-off, here's a great organization, and your money will be doubled because we have somebody matching it," she said.
While Just Like New has been around for nearly two decades, the spay/neuter program started just last year. The volunteers adopted the name Paws in Need, but only recently organized as a nonprofit.
"We've been (offering spay/neuter) at a very low level since May 2012," Treasurer Leslie Haas explained. "We were doing it only when we ran across an animal that needed our services. But now, we're opening it up to the public."
The group procures low-cost spay/neuter services from local vets and raises money to cover those costs for people struggling for enough money to spay or neuter their pets. The group asks for a $20 commitment from the pet owner.
The goal is to reduce the number of stray pets that end up in shelters and ultimately must be euthanized, Haas said. The problem is far worse with cats than dogs.
"We want everybody to get their animals spayed or neutered, not just those of us who have the funds to do it," Simon said.
Just Like New, now under the umbrella of Paws in Need, focuses on helping pet owners who find themselves without enough money when their pets need critical care.
"We will help people one time only," Simon said. Pet owners are asked to pitch in financially, if at all possible.
"We're trying to help responsible pet owners who've found themselves in a one-time situation where they can't afford to take a pet to the vet and are facing (pet) euthanasia because of money," she said.
Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center in San Ramon is among the many vet clinics that help nonprofits like Paws in Need.
"They have a far greater reach than we do to help families who are in need of services for their pets," Bishop Ranch vet Jim DeLano said. "Working with other groups allows us to extend our reach and their reach. It's wonderful for us to touch many, many lives, and one way to do it is through these groups."
Paws in Need helps pet owners in Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, Sunol, San Ramon and Danville.
"When we first started this program, we figured out where our supporters and volunteers are coming from and said those are the communities we want to include," Simon explained.
Paws in Need raises money through a gift shop inside Feline Medical Center in Pleasanton. There are items for pet and pet lovers alike. The new nonprofit also plans many fundraisers in the coming year, including a crab feed on Feb. 8.
"Jackie was very passionate about the fund, and she passed that passion on to me," Simon said. "I'm excited that we can take this program to the next level."
To learn more about Paws in Need and its fundraisers, or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit paws-in-need.org. An anonymous donor has offered to match all December donations, dollar for dollar, up to $10,000 to help launch the new Tri-Valley nonprofit.