for the dogs
Animal Welfare Assistance Group
by Carie Broecker
Animal Welfare Assistance Group (AWAG), formerly known as Animal Welfare Information and Assistance, has been helping low-income cat-and-dog guardians in Monterey County for the past 36 years.
The nonprofit organization was founded in 1978 by Gwendolyn May. Gwendolyn, who is now 96 years old, is a former executive director of the SPCA for Monterey County. She ran AWAG out of her home for several years, and eventually her daughter, Sherrie May, took over and ran the organization up until Sherrie’s death from cancer in July 2012.
After Sherrie May’s death, the organization was at risk of falling apart and dissolving. AWAG needed someone to step up and take the reins so their good work would not end. Fortunately, board president and former animal control officer for the City of Monterey, Cathi Cristobol, called an emergency board meeting to save the organization from folding. With her leadership over the next year, they developed a plan to hire a new executive director to run the organization.
After an extensive search, they hired Roxane Fritz, along with her sidekick Phoebe the Pug. Roxane has been with AWAG just over a year and a half now and has worked hard to strengthen the foundation of the organization. She has been busy getting the word out about their services, as well as building a website and giving their benefit shop, Tailwaggers in Pacific Grove, a facelift. Cathi Cristobol was also hired on as the part-time program manager.
The mission of AWAG is to promote the welfare of animals and distribute information about animals, as well as providing the financial assistance for low-income pet guardians. They help cover veterinary expenses for low-income residents and senior citizens of Monterey County so they are not forced to surrender their pets for rehoming.
One of the main reasons senior citizens end up relinquishing their pets is because they are not financially able to keep up with their basic needs, including medical care and food. Besides providing financial assistance for veterinary care, AWAG also provides food for low-income pet guardians.
The organization receives close to 200 calls every month from people seeking information and assistance. Many of the callers are referred from shelters and rescue groups, veterinarians, or from AWAG’s website.
AWAG feels strongly about making microchips affordable so that animals who have a loving home can be returned to their guardians if they end up in a shelter. The group provides free microchips to local shelters so dogs and cats who are being returned to their families can get a microchip implanted at no cost to the family. This helps ensure that pets will make it back to their families if they go missing again. The chips are registered with the guardian’s contact information, and if the pet ends up back in the shelter, it is scanned for the chip and the guardian is contacted to retrieve their beloved pet. AWAG also provides an additional $100.00 to the spay/neuter vouchers for animals that are RTO’d (returned to owner) from Salinas Animal Services.
AWAG regularly goes into low-income communities to provide free and low-cost vaccines, microchips, and spay/neuter vouchers. They recently provided rabies and DHPP vaccinations, microchip, and goodie bag for only $5.00 in Cachagua. Their clinic served more than 55 dogs and also made arrangements to spay or neuter half a dozen dogs at no charge at the same event. The organization plans to take the same offer to communities in South Monterey County.
In the works is a spay/neuter program sponsored by AWAG so that animal control officers in Monterey County can hand out spay/neuter vouchers on the spot when they come across pets who are unaltered.
AWAG is a small organization doing meaningful, important work. They are funded by individual donations and raise money through fundraising, as well as through their benefit shop on 17th Street in Pacific Grove.
For more information aboutAWAG, please visit www.animalwelfare.org.