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Dedicated Team Of 'Animal Angels' Saving Lives
From left, Ann Goforth, Betsie Corwin, Danielle Merritt, Debi Scoles, and Stara Visser are a few of the members of the Oakdale Pet Alliance and the Oakdale Pet Shelter team that help several dogs and cats in Riverbank and Oakdale. - photo by Virginia Still/The Leader

Basically bursting at the seams, the Oakdale Animal Shelter will be the subject of an upcoming needs assessment to determine what size of building they should have to meet future needs and what kind of costs would be incurred. Animal experts at the A.S.T.R.O. Foundation will be doing the assessment.

The Oakdale Shelter Pet Alliance (OSPA) and private donations have helped increase the shelter capacity, but the space is still limited. The Pet Alliance has added a play yard and they just had three new kennels donated. Recently, they moved their supply room so that they could have a cat area that they have turned into a cat adoption room. OSPA board member Del Vitto has taken on that project and will soon have it completed. The supply room has been moved across the hall at the shelter on Liberini Road, and the shelter serves both the communities of Oakdale and Riverbank.

The volunteers, like OSPA President Betsie Corwin, board member Ann Goforth and others go to the shelter every day to walk the dogs. The puppies are kept in a separate area for health and safety reasons, but it is outside right now because that is the only place to put them. Stara Visser has joined the fight to save the dogs and cats at the Animal Shelter and has been contacting different dog rescues. Recently, they sent several dogs to rescues a little further north, helping to relieve overcrowded conditions at the shelter. A total of 14 dogs were saved and sent to rescues in Oregon. Volunteers also spend some of their time transporting the animals to the vet.

Although they were able to save 14 dogs, shortly after that six more dogs came into the shelter. The animals going into the shelter is a constant occurrence. Corwin recommended that pet owners spay and neuter their dogs and cats so the population of unwanted animals decreases.

A volunteer from Animal Outreach of the Mother Lode frequents the shelter to rescue cats. They have picked up 14 cats in one run to the shelter.

“Sometimes we get one adopted and then two more come in,” said Goforth.

Board member Debi Scoles represented the OSPA at the Read Across Riverbank event held at California Avenue and was joined by Spot the Dog, as the group gets its name and mission into the public eye.

“I call them the Animal Angels,” said Vitto. “Community awareness is very important.”

The OSPA also holds several different events to try to get the animals adopted, such as on Saturday, March 23 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. when they hosted an adoption event at Tractor Supply, 1580 E. F St. in Oakdale.

The OSPA is a non-profit organization of volunteers that are local animal loving residents. Founded in 2004 by volunteers at the animal shelter, the OSPA provides financial support to the shelter as well as medical treatment for special needs animals. The low cost spay and neuter programs are also offered by the OSPA. They are able to assist the shelter through fundraisers and donations.

“The voucher program has really taken off,” said Corwin.

Shelter attendant Danielle Merritt has to make sure that the dogs are fed and the kennels are cleaned on a daily basis, among many other duties.

Merritt has been working with animals throughout her working career. Originally she started out working at a local dog grooming business and then moved onto a vet hospital where she worked for four years. Now, you can find Merritt at the Oakdale Animal Shelter where she has been attending to the animals for several years.

“I like the idea of getting a new facility because I think we need more updates,” said Merritt.

In just one example of how the Alliance helps, a boxer named Joe was dropped off at the shelter with a broken back leg so they had to take him to the vet. The OSPA paid for the boxer to get his leg fixed because he had to have pins put in his leg. The boxer recovered and shortly afterward was adopted.

The OSPA stays active informing the community by hosting adoption events, putting up posters of shelter animals throughout the community, and posting the pets on the Internet. They will have a K9 team participating in the upcoming Oakdale rodeo. Most of the volunteers have also rescued dogs on their own and have added them to their families.

For more information or to learn about adoptions, visit,, or call (209) 847-5625.