Local animal shelters give abandoned animals a better life


Ani Sarkisyan

​Located in Atwater Village, Sante D’ Or is open to anyone looking to adopt animals

Opening the heavy back door that read “Be careful, a cat might be behind the door,” I walked into Sante D’Or animal shelter. I hung my bags on the hangers, sanitized my hands and was ready to help. As I saw all the volunteers, I understood that there’s always a way to help the furry friends that call the animal shelters their home.

However, after I discovered that over 7.6 million animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, I decided it was time to do something about it.

— Ani Sarkisyan

Back in 2011, I bought my Pomeranian Poodle Cookie. Yes, I said bought, not adopted. At that time, purchasing and adopting pets made no difference to me. However, after I discovered that over 7.6 million animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, I decided it was time to do something about it. Whether it was because of the guilt I felt for buying rather than adopting, or because of the joy that my dog brought into my family, I wanted to help out other animals in some way.

Eager to find a way to help, I began asking around to see if anyone knew of a way that a teen could help sheltered animals. Junior Ben Satzman introduced me to an animal shelter called Sante D’ Or. Keeping this odd-sounding name at the back of my head, I researched the organization and found out it was a nonprofit, no kill animal shelter in Atwater Village.

Sante D’Or was founded by Kelly Milam and has had over 3,000 animals adopted, according to the organization’s website. Scrolling through the website, I came across the volunteer tab which led me to a simple application process. I was so surprised that the shelter accepted volunteers of all ages. I frantically entered my information and waited for a reply.

Koschka Bahr, the volunteer coordinator, emailed me back the following day, providing me with a volunteer orientation date. As my orientation day got closer, I decided to also research different shelters around the area. The Burbank Animal Shelter is another shelter that has similar intentions as Sante D’ Or. As of September 20, the shelter had 26 dogs, 18 cats and several rabbits up for adoption. This shelter was appealing to me because of its variety of animals, but it only accepts volunteers who are 18 years or older.

After gaining more information about shelters, I began to pay more attention to The Humane Society’s compelling advertisements. “Those commercials are really sad and they kind of force you to donate money,” said junior Manuel Sardaryan. “I don’t like them.” These commercials are what got me to the Glendale Humane Society’s website since the shelter’s name was based on the Humane Society organization. Though their names are similar, the shelter is not directly associated with the Humane Society, according to an email from the Glendale Humane Society staff.

An adoptable cat gets ready for lunch time.
Manuel Sardaryan
An adoptable cat gets ready for lunch time.


Once again, I was somewhat disappointed when I discovered that you must be at least 18 years old to volunteer at the Glendale Humane Society. The shelter is only open to the public by appointment since strangers can stress the animals, according to the Glendale Humane Society website. In a phone call with the Glendale Humane Society, Carmen, a staff member said that people can donate to the shelter. This is a great way for non volunteers to help out since the shelters are always in need of supplies such as litter boxes, rags, treats and anything else animals would need.

On the day of my orientation at Sante D’Or , I entered a room full of cats and around ten new volunteers. Volunteer coordinator Koschka Bahr gave us a tour of the shelter, explaining that it had been remodeled by Animal Planet’s show My Cat From Hell. The room was echoing with meows and barks, and I couldn’t be happier. This is where I belonged.

“I love how welcoming the shelter is. It doesn’t remind me of those commercials,” Sardaryan said during the orientation. After the hourlong tour, I learned that as of September 18, the shelter carries 50 cats, 23 kittens and two dogs. Bahr said that the shelter accepts volunteers in three shifts: morning, noon and afternoon. They allow volunteers of all ages because the shelter was run on a volunteer-only basis, with the exception of Christy Keefe, a full-time employee.

To sign up for my first real volunteering day, I emailed Bahr again and reserved the morning shift for a Sunday.

Cleaning a litter box as cats roam around the shelter.
Manuel Sardaryan
Cleaning a litter box as cats roam around the shelter.

Once I got to the shelter, I was greeted by the supervisor, Tom Beyer, and a volunteer named Susan. “We’ll be starting with cleaning all of the cages,” Susan said. I went up to the cage, wore my gloves, and nearly gagged in response to the smelly litter box. Trying to hold my breath, I removed from the cage an adorable orange and white cat named Weekend at Bernie’s. I grabbed a rag from the blue Ikea caddy, sprayed some Method cleaner in the cage and started cleaning. By far, cleaning the litter box was the hardest part. I had to throw all of the “used” litter into the trash bin and add a couple of new scoops of litter. After the first cage was done, I became familiar with the cleaning process.

Cleaning cages started becoming an easy task until I had to clean one that was filled with four kittens. One by one, I had to carry them into a carrying cage because the kittens were not allowed to roam around with the other cats. With scratch marks all over my arms, I cleaned the cage. This cage cleaning experience taught me to wear long sleeved shirts to the shelter.

After cleaning cages was over, freshman Amira Elle Abu-Jaber and I started sweeping the floors. Abu-Jaber swept, and I mopped after her. This process was probably the best since the cats were all roaming around and playing while we were getting ready to open the shelter to the public. “This is my fifth time coming here and it’s great because I help the animals and get volunteer hours at the same time,” Abu-Jaber said.

The room was echoing with meows and barks, and I couldn’t be happier. This is where I belonged.

— Ani Sarkisyan

At noon, a swarm of people entered the waiting room, ready to see the animals. After that, they were admitted into the actual shelter, where they would pet any cat of their choice. During this time, I went into the kitten room where ten adorable kittens attacked me with their cuteness. One of them even climbed onto my back when I was about to leave the room. As I was playing with the kittens, Beyer said that cat adoptions were $155. “Each cat comes with a collar, a tag, a microchip and all of its vaccines,” Beyer said.

As 12:30 approached, I went into the back room to sign out on the volunteer sheet. As I was about to leave, I heard an adorable “meow” and saw that a kitten wanted to get into his cage. I let the kitten into his home, sanitized my hands and went home feeling like a better person.

The following Sunday, Sardaryan and I went to the shelter again, with a gained appreciation for the organization and the people a part of it. “I feel like at first, I just came for the hours, but now, I really like coming and petting the cats and, hey, I’m also highly allergic, so that’s fun,” Sardaryan said.