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Animal Rescue Article

Humane Society of Ventura County

by John Darling

Horse in Stable

     For nearly 90 years, the Humane Society of Ventura County (HSVC) has been rescuing animals from abusive situations, neglect, and natural disasters. Unlike many such agencies, HSVC has the resources to take in all species. I volunteered at the shelter for over 5 years while performing a variety of duties which included walking dogs, helping out with the yard work, showing animals to visitors, and working at offsite adoption events.

     During my years with HSVC, I saw them rescue every type of animal, from a Tarantula to a Brahma Bull. There were usually a few snakes slithering around in their terrariums as well.

     The shelter got its start in 1932 when a small group of animal lovers founded the HSVC. For 50 years, they struggled with too little space and money to care for all the animals that needed their love and dedication.

At first, volunteers fostered animals around Casitas Springs, CA but by the 1970s they were able to establish an adoption center in Santa Paula, CA, then a benefactor bought and donated nearly 4 1⁄2 acres of property in Ojai, CA to HSVC. The organization moved to the new location in 1982 and is still there today.

     Along with caring for animals, the shelter now offers to the public a low-cost clinic with full veterinarian services, a lost and found service, microchipping, and a pet food bank for those in need. They also have a fully stocked shelter store that carries food, clothing, accessories, and more for domestic animals.

     When you first enter the office, you are greeted by Oliver, the shelter's 34-year-old Cockatoo who has been on the job for 29 years after his owner surrendered him. He will whistle, wish you Happy Birthday, and act silly for the kids. Ollie is a star in his own right!

     Since HSVC has badged and sworn Humane Officers, they can remove animals from abusive or neglectful owners. Prosecution of these offenders often follows, but the main purpose of confiscating animals is to give them the humane life they deserve.

     In 2017, when the Thomas Fire raged through the Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, it was the biggest fire in the state's history. Ultimately, it scorched 281,893 acres with much of the land burned being in the hills above Ventura, including thousands of acres around Ojai. People were forced to flee their homes, taking their animals with them. Hundreds of these animals were taken in by HSVC until their owners were able to return to their homes if the buildings survived the fire.

     Several of the HSVC staff members could not get to their own homes due to roads closed by fire or firefighters and their equipment. They stayed at the shelter caring for the animals that were flooding the facility. Many courageous citizens braved the fires to bring in much-needed supplies, so the animals stayed safe, fed, and cared for until the crisis abated. If it had not been for HSVC, there is no telling how many animals would have perished in the flames.

     Tommy the horse was one lucky animal found and taken in by HSVC. He was wandering around upper Ojai, caked in mud, and burned. He was so dejected that he would not lift his head. After HSVC staff groomed him, gave him all the food he needed, provided him with medical care while safely housed in the HSVC's corrals, his spirit soon returned to him. He became a staff and volunteer favorite, and then a celebrity when he was featured in an article published by the Ventura County Star newspaper. It was this article that helped him find a forever home.

     Anne Scioscia, the wife of the former California Angels Manager, Tommy Scioscia, read the article and decided to adopt him even though he was an estimated 25 years old and needed medical treatment for the rest of his days. She took Tommy to her horse farm, called Peck Farm, in Moorpark, CA where he will live in comfort until he dies.

     Mrs. Scioscia stated, "I love him. He's our horse. He's everybody's horse. He's the Thomas Fire's horse. He's the phoenix that came out of the Thomas Fire."

     Tommy is just another fantastic success story brought about by the Humane Society of Ventura County!

     Despite the COVID pandemic, HSVC still rescues animals and still puts them up for adoption. Though they remain closed to the public, you can view their adoptable pets on their website (, then call to set up an appointment for a meet and greet session with your pet of choice.

Visit the HSVC on their website here

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