(continued text from Santa Barbara News-Press article above): The foundation’s goal is to keep people and their pets together, prolonging the health of the owners as well as minimizing the number of animals turned over to shelters.” Many people end up in medical facilities if you take their dog or cat away. It’s really their only hold on life,” Mrs. Basehart said. While she started working on the project recently, the problem has been on her mind for at least 15 years, ever since she volunteered at a local Medi-Cal facility and saw how losing a pet affected those who were elderly or ill. “The last thing they want to give up is the greatest companion they have, but often they have to,” Mrs. Basehart said. During her time at the facility, she persuaded management to let her bring a dog for residents to play with.
“I put a dog on a woman’s lap one day,” Mrs. Basehart remembered. “She said, ‘That’s a Yorkshire terrier,’ and all the doctors and nurses came around because she hadn’t spoken in six months.” After seeing reactions like that one, Mrs. Basehart realized the importance of keeping people and their pets together, she said.
While the three women come from different backgrounds, working together seems to be a natural fit. “The three of us are like family,” Ms. Shaw said. Dr. Frohoff, who founded Santa Barbara-based nonprofit Protect Our Dolphins in 2010, is an animal behavioral biologist and the author of two books. Ms. Shaw, a television producer and an animal advocate, volunteers three or four times a week at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, where she specializes in care and placement of dogs. Involved in one cause or another for most of her life, Mrs. Basehart has decades of experience in protecting the homeless, elders and animals.
She and her late husband, actor Richard Basehart, co-founded Actors and Others for Animals in 1971. The nonprofit to promote the humane treatment of animals launched campaigns to fight animal cruelty in films, lobby for protective legislation and regulate animal shelters. An organization that used famous names for a cause, Actors and Others for Animals boasted such supporters as Doris Day, Lucille Ball and Rick Nelson. “It was the first to incorporate celebrity,” said Dr. Frohoff. Mrs. Basehart went on to found the Richard Basehart Foundation after her husband’s death in 1984. A precursor of her latest nonprofit work, the organization was established to help low-income seniors afford pets. She also organized the 1990 March for Animals in Washington, D.C., an event that took three years of planning and drew around 65,000 supporters.
“Most of her life’s work has been to make the invisible visible, whether it’s shelter dogs or elderly people who can rarely leave their homes,” said Dr. Frohoff. “And doing so is a process of joy. Some people might think of it as depressing, but it’s a joyous occasion.”
A short film to be screened at the upcoming fundraiser will highlight some of the people the foundation has already helped. Advisory board co-chairs Tipper Gore and Bill Allen put together the two-minute movie filmed in Santa Barbara, with Ms. Gore taking the photographs and Mr. Allen filming. “The stories are heartbreaking,” said Mrs. Basehart. “Each one is very different and each one could be me or you.”
Her experiences meeting those in the area who are homeless or living on low incomes helped to inspire the foundation’s start, Mrs. Basehart said. The founders hope to benefit and work with other community organizations. They have already collaborated with C.A.R.E.4Paws, a local nonprofit that focuses on neutering and spaying pets. “If we can keep people and their companion animals together, it will mean less animals coming into the shelters,” Ms. Shaw said. The foundation’s work is preventative, said Dr. Frohoff. “In healing this, the community heals itself.”
The foundation debut and fundraiser will be held 3 to 6 p.m. Dec. 1 at the home of Penelope and Adam Bianchi in Montecito. The event will feature wine, hors d’oeuvres and live music. A $100 donation is requested to attend. RSVP by Nov. 29 to the foundation at 222-4567 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.basehart.org (SB News-Press journalist email: email@example.com)