Walnut Creek, CA – Hall-of-Fame Manager and ARF co-founder Tony La Russa, staff and supporters officially broke ground on a massive expansion for Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) Tuesday, which will include space to save 500 more dogs a year, as well as construction of a free-standing center to house ARF’s rapidly growing Pets and Vets Program.
The program, which trains shelter dogs as psychiatric service animals for veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, agoraphobia and more – at no cost to veterans, is now expanding to train other shelters around the nation to replicate the program in their area.
“Since ARF opened in 1991, we’ve witnessed amazing the transformations that occur when people add the unconditional love of an animal into their lives,” said La Russa. “After ARF began pairing veterans with emotional support animals, it was the veterans themselves who highlighted that there was an unmet need for trained, psychiatric service dogs to help them as they navigate the challenges of PTSD, anxiety, traumatic brain injuries and more. This tremendous success – that more veterans are now getting the help they need at no cost while saving the lives of animals at risk of euthanasia – is due to them.”
The 23,800-square-foot total expansion is part of ARF’s $18.7 million “Saving Both Ends of the Leash®” campaign. In addition to the Pets and Vets program center and enlarged dog kennel area, the expansion will also add a separate veterans’ area to the ARF clinic, construct new all-weather training fields, increase energy efficiency through solar and more.
The majority of funding has come from individuals, and the community is asked to help with the final $1 million to get the shelter to the finish line. For every dollar donated now, the Engelstad Family Foundation will match the public’s gift 2:1. This translates to $3 for every $1 given.
ARF Executive Director Elena Bicker noted that regular programs and services, including rescues, adoptions and ARF’s award-winning children’s summer camps will continue during construction. She said the shelter’s foster program will play an even more vital role in the coming months.
“We have an outstanding foster network already helping us with animals who benefit from time in a home environment, such as young animals or those recovering from surgery,” said Bicker. “We strongly encourage anyone who has additional room in their home and heart to consider becoming a foster during this time when we’ll utilize all our resources as we continue our life-saving work.”
For more information about ARF’s Pets and Vets program or to make a gift to the “Saving Both Ends of the Leash®” campaign, go to arflife.org/campaign.
ARF’s core mission is the rescue of dogs and cats who have run out of time at public shelters, giving them a chance at life until a new home can be found. ARF couples this focus with innovative programs strengthening the human-animal bond for children, seniors, veterans, and people in disadvantaged circumstances. Through ARF, people experience the unconditional love and acceptance of dogs and cats to fulfill a mission of “People Rescuing Animals…Animals Rescuing People.®”