Debbie has over 40 years of rescue experience. She has many stories to tell, but her eyes light up when she speaks about her one true passion -- animals. Taphy (said “Taffy,”) a Siamese, her first rescue, was what started this life-long commitment.
For the past fifty-one years, Debbie has spent most of her time rescuing and re-homing animals. As she pours over a thick photo album, she prides herself in remembering the 4,000 animals that she has saved to date. “I may not remember the owner, but I remember the animal,” She laughs.
Debbie is the co-founder of Valley Cats, Inc a non-profit, animal rescue that pulls cats and dogs from Southern California shelters. Many of them were destined for euthanasia for being too sick, too old, too small, too scared or just too many.
“When they get adopted into their forever homes, there’s no smile wider than mine. I mean won the lottery happy.” She smiles.
It was her life-long dream to create a multi-rescue, safe haven for cats and dogs. Two years ago, Debbie and Yvette Berke made that dream a reality. They co-founded Petopia, the first animal rescue adoption center inside a mainstream mall. It was their hope that prime real-estate would attract greater foot traffic, leading to increased adoptions.
Petopia was designed to be a “feline and canine utopia.” They used the money from Valley Cats first but when that money ran out, Debbie and Yvette made up the difference to build it. The cost of creating this beautiful environment for the animals was upwards of $150,000.
“With very few exceptions the rooms are cage-free” she says. The rooms are cat friendly with cozy cubbies on the walls, ladders, tunnels, kitty towers, soft beds and colorful murals to complete the environment. The dog rooms have toys, loungers, and a potty patch area. Here the dogs and cats are treated like royalty while waiting for their forever homes.
In addition Petopia also built a large dog training area, two bonding rooms (one for dogs and one for cats), an isolation room, and an examination room for visiting vets.
Unfortunately, management has decided not to renew any leases. The future of the mall is uncertain and this leaves Valley Cats needing a new location.
“I thought we would be in the mall for at least 4 years, maybe 6. But it has only been 2 years.”
Knowing that Petopia will be asked to leave within potentially 60 days, Debbie has had to stop what she holds most dear, saving more lives.
Since funds allocated to build Petopia were exhausted at the mall, we are asking animal lovers to help fund a new location.
Valley Cats is now looking for a new home of at least 6000 square feet. The estimated cost of professional contractors to salvage anything possible, and rebuild in a new location is approximately $100,000. By using professional help, the animals can be moved quickly and safely from one location to another with as little trouble as possible.
We are appealing to the animal-loving community to show Debbie that she is not alone in her fight and we appreciate every life she has saved, every mouth she has fed, every litter box she has changed.
The goal is to raise $100,000. All money raised will go directly to the rescue so Debbie can move to a new adoption center and so she can go back to saving more lives. Please donate! Thank you for sharing Debbie’s story and giving Valley Cats a second chance!
- Christine McGonigal
- Sherrill Millar
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