Cal State Fullerton student Ethan Young remembers his high school adviser telling him about a dog she fostered being put down by Animal Friends of the Valleys, despite the trust that she had placed in the shelter to keep the dog available for adoption.
Young knew then that he would never partner with a kill shelter again and got involved with Priceless Pets Rescue.
When it comes to animal shelters, Priceless Pets Rescue is a non-kill shelter that houses pets to be adopted or fostered. Young started a collaboration with the shelter’s Chino Hills branch, as a separate entity called the Priceless Pets Project, in which volunteers from CSUF make trips to the shelter to help out.
“Priceless Pets was one of the closer (animal shelters) that actually reached out to us and had an easier involvement process. We did try to reach out to OC Animal Care, but they’re more strict on guidelines and it wasn’t as accessible to our students,” said Jesus Hernandez, a CSUF student and co-director of the program alongside Young.
In high school, Young was the president of Paws Club, a student charity group for dogs, and when he started college he knew he wanted to work with animals again. He couldn’t find any CSUF organization dedicated to animal services, so he decided to start his own group with the help of Priceless Pets Rescue and Community Services & Leadership Program Coordinator, Heidi Elmer.
Priceless Pets Project members are always interacting with new dogs. Most of the animals come from kill shelters or other abusive environments, and only stay for about a month until they’re adopted or fostered. The shelter additionally receives animals that have been displaced by natural disasters.
“They can come from afar but they can also come locally,” Young said. “One time on a Saturday when we were getting the dogs in, those pets came from hurricane zones that decimated their area.”
Young said it’s important to be cautious and patient with the animals because some of the pets have gone through traumatic experiences. His mother adopted a Yorkie named Reggie from Priceless Pets Rescue. Young said his family had to be delicate with Reggie as they soon noticed from his behavior that he had been abused.
At the shelter, volunteers assist with some of the more routine tasks, like walking dogs and cleaning their kennels.
The CSUF group visits the shelter at least twice a month and appreciates what Priceless Pets Rescue does for all the animals still searching for a “forever home” and cherishes the memories shared between pets and volunteers.
Hernandez recalls a dog named Shelley with whom he had gotten close to at the shelter over the course of three weeks.
“She just had little puppies and she got taken away from them, so she was in her little corner,” Hernandez said. “I just sat with her and she came and cuddled up next to me.”
Apart from the emotional attachment developed with particular dogs, there is also an element of relief and fulfillment once an animal has left the shelter.
“You know that they either got adopted or fostered because it’s a no-kill shelter. And it’s really nice to know that even though I didn’t adopt that dog, or I couldn’t have, she’s in a better place now. She’s with an owner,” Young said.