Scratch This: Meet Matt Yniguez, Long Beach Animal Care Services’ volunteer coordinator

Plus, check out these adoptable cats and pups: Gumbo, Showtime and Ruby Tuesday.

Scratch This: Meet Matt Yniguez, Long Beach Animal Care Services’ volunteer coordinator
Matt Yniguez and shelter cat, Sherman. Courtesy photo.

For many months, Long Beach Animal Care Services staff were deep in recruitment mode to fill the position of volunteer coordinator. They finally found their candidate in Matt Yniguez.

Long Beach residents who are eager to help make a difference in positive outcomes for our shelter’s pets — I hope this means you — can now apply to volunteer at Long Beach Animal Care Services through the system that Yniguez and the shelter management staff set up.

“I live in Long Beach, and it’s a thrill to be working at the shelter here!” Yniguez said. “We have such an amazing group of volunteers already! We’re looking to build an incredible program here.”

Yniguez, a Long Beach resident, has 10 years of experience in animal sheltering and rescue, six of them at the Los Angeles division of national animal welfare organization Best Friends. He has a comprehensive knowledge of what it takes to create a successful volunteer program, having spent four years of his tenure at Best Friends as a volunteer coordinator and several years volunteering at LBACS.

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Yniguez joined the LBACS staff in January. His ongoing focus is on understanding what the shelter needs and what volunteers can do to help things run smoothly. He and the staff have been restructuring the volunteer program and readied the application process in March. Now, dedicated individuals — again, hopefully you — can join LBACS’ strong pool of hardworking, loving volunteers.

“Volunteers are the backbone of the shelter environment,” Yniguez said. “Right now, we’re at capacity with dogs, so it’s great to have volunteers to help us walk dogs and socialize the ones looking for homes and fosters.”

Besides caring for dogs, volunteer opportunities include feeding neonatal kittens, particularly during the kitten-season influx; transporting pets to veterinarians; helping to ferry the furry dogs, cats and the occasional rabbit from the kennels to the mobile spay/neuter clinics in the shelter parking lot; and taking photographs and filming videos to put on social media. People who want to help create the best outcomes for shelter pets but whose schedule doesn’t permit going to the shelter, have allergies, or are upset by the thought of being inside a shelter can work offsite on the administrative paperwork.

“Being a volunteer is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be a big commitment,” Yniguez said. “It’s more than coming onsite and walking dogs and petting cats. There’s training involved.”

After you register and create an account on the volunteer page, you’ll be directed to make an appointment for a LiveScan background check at an offsite location. Finally, you’ll be set up for training.

Current volunteers will also enroll in training sessions that will cover updated guidelines, procedures, and plans and goals for animal caregiving.

Yniguez said that anyone wanting to volunteer at the shelter should access the volunteer page at the end of March. Yes, that means you, we hope!

Yours drooly

Some shelter pets are overlooked or deliberately not chosen because of age, misperception of breed behavior (ask any human who lives with a goofy pit bull), coat color, or behavior in a kennel environment. A pet can’t easily show their personality or behavior if they’re stuck in a kennel, which presents a quandary: If an animal doesn’t show well in a shelter, they won’t get adopted and show their true selves outside the shelter.

The following three pets have been at Long Beach Animal Care Services way too long. They need out in a good way or risk getting out in a really bad way if their stress levels increase. Their volunteer champions at the shelter have suggested the three of them to feature in the column, so come to LBACS and meet them in furson. Shelter hours are Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 7700 E. Spring St. at the entrance to El Dorado Park (no parking fee for shelter visitors). Speed up the foster or adoption process by emailing PetAdopt@longbeach.gov or petfoster@longbeach.gov or by calling 562-570-4925.

Ruby Tuesday is waiting to be adopted.
  • The only way that we want to say “Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday” is when some loving human walks off into the sunset with her in a carrier and heads to a forever home. Ruby Tuesday (ID#A711239) is a delightful 5-year-old beauty with quite the “tail” of resilience. She entered the shelter as a stray in November and struggled to adjust to life in a kennel. But when she discovered the Catio Crew, Ruby’s quality of life cat-apulted (sorry) to new heights! Lounging in the sun, smelling the fresh air, and exploring her surroundings have turned her into a regular kitty! She now solicits attention, rubs up against volunteers' legs, throws herself into play, and accepts treats. Ruby Tuesday’s now waiting on a friend, and after five months in the shelter, we hope to set  the record straight for her about “can’t always get what you want.” We know she can!
  • Showtime (ID#A702831) — an aptly named fellow —is high-energy and loves playing with other high-energy dogs. He knows sit and fetch, and how to play tug-of-war, and he relishes relaxing on benches with volunteers. He’s done great in dog play groups and did well at Pit Bull Appreciation Day in October — yes, he’s been here that long. He entered in July, in fact. Showtime was briefly adopted twice but was returned because the other dogs in the house were put off by his energy level and playfulness. But one family said that Showtime was great with kids and small dogs and, yes, loved the family’s trampoline! How many dogs do you know who love the trampoline?
  • Volunteer Julie calls Gumbo (ID#A705236) her “little ball of energy.” His tail never stops wagging! He loves to play fetch, knows some commands, and is treat motivated. He’s another one of the volunteers’ bench buddies, and he loves getting close to them. He sure loves those toys — in fact, it’s tough love as we know it with doggies. He goes through them really fast! Gumbo was abandoned at Coolidge Park, with severe skin issues. He entered the shelter in August, and even though the time was used to heal him, eight months is too much time for a good doggie to spend in a shelter.

Tail-wagging and nose-booping things to do and ways to help

Bring Bowser to Brunch

Join Sparky and the Gang for Yappy Brunch this Saturday from 12 to 2 p.m. Enjoy music, raffles, and fun in the sun with your BFF (best furry friend). No dog or your own wants a table mate? Adopt one at the event! Table availability is limited, so text Sherri Stankewitz at 310-621-1417 or email her at sparkyandthegang@yahoo.comKeep pestering her if she doesn’t answer immediately. Sherri plans to repeat the brunches every month.

Brunch will be served from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, at Marina Café, 720 Peninsula Rd., #202, Wilmington, menu prices apply.

TNR Community Cat Action Group’s third meeting

Thanks to the enthusiasm and a huge need for meowtual support, the first two meetings of the newly organized coalition of TNR trappers were well attended. The next TNR Action, Education, and Awareness Group meeting will focus on finalizing volunteer lists, updating the group on the TNR process in Long Beach, sharing resources and best practices, and answering questions.

“Of all the meetings we have had, this one you will not want to miss,” said Kris Beardsley, retired FBI agent and the group’s organizer. “This one promises to add the ‘action piece’ to this group as well as education. We must work together with our amazing rescues to reduce the number of homeless cats and prevent more kittens from being born on the streets!”

The meeting takes place Saturday, May 4, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by TNR training from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the education center at Long Beach Animal Care Services, 7700 E Spring St, Long Beach.To sign up, email Kris Beardsley at kbfeeler@gmail.com.

Pizza for the Pups

Grab a slice, and District 4 Pizza will add a topping of love for the well-being and health of the dogs at the Parvo ICU and Sparky and the Gang.

Fundraiser runs from noon to 9 p.m. at District 4 Pizza, 2123 N. Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach. Menu prices apply. A percentage of the tab goes to the clinic and rescue.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the correct name for the cat pictured with Matt Yniguez is Sherman, not Martin.

Kate Karp has been covering animal care and pets in Long Beach for almost two decades. Her new column, Scratch This, will be published in the Long Beach Watchdog every Friday.