“We are so excited, of course, but nothing is in writing yet,” said HALO President Tamara Reed. “This is such a wonderful opportunity to be able to use the fire station as a place to house our rescued dogs and cats until we find loving homes for them. This will be our first base location since we started 13 years ago.”
HALO is an East County nonprofit that rescues dogs and cats from shelters before they are euthanized. HALO volunteers open up their homes as foster families to these animals until someone adopts them. Last year, HALO adopted out 449 dogs and 237 cats. Dogs and cats in the care of volunteers are groomed, receive medical treatment and are taught to socialize with other animals. According to HALO’s proposal, the organization will renovate the firehouse into an adoption center to better serve the public.
Last week, the Oakley City Council directed staff to draft a lease agreement to allow HALO to set up operations at the firehouse. The final terms of the agreement have not been ironed out, but HALO is expected to pay about $100 per month for 18 months. The decision was particularly important to Councilwoman Pat Anderson, who adopted a Labrador puppy from HALO months after her dog was struck by a car and died.
“I wasn’t going to do dogs again,” said Anderson. “But my neighbor said, ‘You need to go see Joyce at HALO’. (The dog) is doing just fine. He saved me. And so did you (Joyce) save me. I certainly support this.”
Joyce Sanderson, HALO’s dogs adoption manager, has been volunteering with the organization since the beginning. She estimates that 4,000 dogs have passed through her home over the years. Sanderson is preparing to retire from HALO, so she asked the council to consider HALO’s proposal to transform the fire station into a state-of-the-art cat and dog adoption center.
While HALO focuses on finding loving homes for animal companions, the program also does community outreach. HALO offers Angel Ears, a program that allows children to read to therapy dogs – an experience that improves the child’s confidence and self esteem. HALO also recently launched Pets for Vets, a program that adopts dogs and cats to veterans for free. Reed would also like to create a youth outreach program, K-9 Connection, that would allow troubled teens the opportunity to work with dogs and cats and learn leadership skills and responsibility.
“We love the animals, we love the people and we want to help the local residents,” Sanderson said.
Vice Mayor Kevin Romick said he supported the partnership between HALO and the city because HALO’s proposal presented a unique opportunity to enhance the city’s motto to “A Place for Families and Pets in the Heart of the Delta.”
Reed initially came to Oakley staff with a proposal to move into the portables on the Moura Property on O’Hara Avenue, but HALO’s mission didn’t quite fit what the city was looking for at that location; however, staff kept HALO in mind when considering what to do with the fire station. According to the Downtown Specific Plan, the land surrounding the fire station will eventually be used for parking, but until significant progress is made on downtown renovations, the building would remain vacant. While Reed and her army of volunteers know the arrangement will be temporary, they’re excited about the possibilities.
Some of Reed’s ideas include offering a mobile veterinary clinic for low-cost vaccinations, spaying and neutering and dog and puppy training classes. Reed also plans to work with the city to transform the grassy area adjacent to the fire house into a public dog park.
“Once we sign the lease agreement, it won’t take us long to get things ready,” said Reed. “And soon we’ll be able to find good homes for more abandoned cats and dogs in East County.”
For more information about HALO, visit www.eccchalo.org.