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The Short Version: If you want to bring someone special into your life, look no further than the Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation, a rescue shelter in Los Angeles. This nonprofit unites animal lovers on a mission to save lives and foster more love in the world. Every animal at the Foundation is in need of a second chance, and many couples find the perfect addition to their families here. What’s more, some singles have discovered new friendships and relationships by volunteering at Animal Hope & Wellness.
As a newly married couple, Jason and Kimberly Parker decided to complete their young family by rescuing a dog from the Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation (AHWF) in Los Angeles. They wanted to help a dog in need, and they’d already viewed dog profiles and fallen for a cute pup named Tiger, who had been rescued from the meat market in Asia. Tiger was missing a paw, but his friendly attitude and cute face captured hearts nonetheless.
The couple went to meet Tiger at the rescue, and then another dog caught their eye. Margo was a distemper survivor with neurological issues that made her walk funny. Many people had passed her by because of her physical limitations — she will never be a great running partner — but this couple saw something special in her. They adopted her and Tiger on the spot.
Weeks later, Jason and Kimberly sent the Animal Hope & Wellness team photos of one of their family hikes. Tiger was on a leash, ready to go, and his sister was sitting pretty in a specially made backpack and wearing tinted goggles to protect her sensitive eyes. These two dogs have found their furever home, and the couple has found a family.
“Tiger and Margo are truly a blessing to our lives,” the couple wrote. “They came into our lives at just the right time.”
Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation has seen many touching, tear-jerking success stories like this one, and its efforts to rescue and rehabilitate puppies, dogs, and other animals has brought joy to countless individuals and families.
By creating a close-knit network of volunteers, Animal Hope & Wellness has made a difference in the community and united compassionate animal lovers from all walks of life.
“We love to see a dog going to a home where they’re loved and where they don’t have to worry and can have a new life,” said Adoption Coordinator Meggan Oksness. “I think that makes it all worthwhile.”
Animal Hope & Wellness began in 2011 with Marc Ching, a vegan animal lover whose compassion has no borders. He started by rescuing abused and neglected animals locally in Southern California. In 2015, he heard about the dog and cat meat trade in Asia, where dogs and other animals are mutilated or slaughtered for their meat and bones. In an effort to put a stop to this, Marc traveled to South Korea, Cambodia, China, and other countries that are heavily involved in the trade.
Marc began posing as an American buyer so he could save the animals and expose the cruelty behind the Asian dog and cat meat trade. But he quickly transitioned into rescuing by other means that do not contribute to the trade, such as providing new opportunities to dog meat farm owners. In one instance he helped them start a vegetarian noodle restaurant in place of a slaughterhouse.
After rescuing many animals from this trade, Marc needed a place where they could be nursed back to health and put up for adoption. So AHWF partnered with a Chinese animal advocate named Suki Su to house and care for animals in dire need of a helping hand.
Suki is now the Director of Animal Hope & Wellness China. She runs the China Shelter and an outreach program that educates students about what goes on throughout the meat trade and teaches compassion through animals. The goal of this program is to spread kindness and positively change the way people see dogs, cats, and other animals.
Meanwhile, in L.A., Marc has a team that oversees a rehabilitation and adoption program that has saved hundreds of animal lives. The Animal Hope & Wellness rescue currently has 45 dogs under its care, whether it’s at the location or in foster care. Some are puppies with serious illnesses or birth defects, and others are dogs who have endured inhumane living conditions for years. AHWF believes all of the animals deserve a second chance, which they are given at the L.A. Rescue and the China Shelter.
“Some dogs are so resilient, you wouldn’t know anything happened to them,” Meggan said. “Others need more time and an experienced dog owner who help them heal both physically and emotionally.”
The Animal Hope & Wellness team will do whatever it takes to make a dog feel comfortable and safe around humans. The team has taken in many scared and traumatized dogs and showered them with love and affection until their tails started wagging again. The team has also rescued sheep, squirrels, ducks, cats, cows, and, in one extraordinary case, a 300-pound tortoise.
People start volunteering or working for the Animal Hope & Wellness shelter for many different reasons, but they all share a common passion for animals.
“One thing that sets us apart from other organizations, rescues, and shelters is that we have this network of amazing people behind us,” Meggan said. “There’s a real family dynamic here.”
According to Meggan, about 75% of AHWF staff members started out as volunteers. The Foundation’s cause resonates with a lot of people, and many find their hearts melt when they look into the eyes of an animal in need.
Kerry, who’s now the Volunteer Coordinator at AHWF, started helping out at the Foundation because she had just emigrated to the U.S. and didn’t have a work visa yet. She spent nine months regularly giving her time, energy, and love to the dogs at the rescue, and then AHWF offered her a volunteer coordinator position.
The AHWF community extends far beyond its volunteers and staff — it includes all fosters and adopters who open their homes to animals in need. The Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation has over 221,000 followers on Facebook, and its Instagram page reaches an additional 236,000 people.
The foundation frequently brings these people together at charitable events, including adoption days, fundraisers, and festivals. AHWF alums gather at these events to give their support to AHWF and its ongoing effort to save lives. Anyone can become part of this community by filling out an adoption application, making a donation, or volunteering with the organization.
“Everyone here is here because they love animals,” Meggan said. “There are people who adopted from our organization over a year ago, but we still provide each other support, and they send us updates about their family. That’s something that’s important to us.”
Many success stories have rewarded AHWF’s tireless work rescuing and rehabilitating animals. The rescue gives animals a second chance at a happy life, and it gives people a chance to bring a furball of love into their homes. Some couples find joy in adopting a pet together, while others get a sense of fulfillment by volunteering at the rescue together.
When Meggan first started with AHWF, she and her boyfriend would go there every week to walk the dogs. “It definitely helped us grow closer as a couple,” she said. “It makes you appreciate each other — and life — so much more.”
AHWF offers many volunteer opportunities that are perfect for couples, families, or friends who want to hang out with animals.
Some couples will come in just to take a dog on a picnic. This date idea is great for the couple, but it also helps the dogs get used to being around people. With a dog as your wingman, you can’t go wrong on a date. Plus, if all goes well, you might just fall in love with a person and a dog at the same time.
“We are so happy we have the opportunity to have such a special pup,” said Brittany Paffrath after adopting from Animal Hope & Wellness. “It was such an easy and wonderful process at the rescue. Highly recommend this rescue.”
The team is committed to seeing its animals thrive and find loving homes, so they don’t pair animals up with just anyone. They ask questions to ensure the animal is a good fit for the individual, couple, or family seeking a new pet. Some dogs would do better in homes without other pets, for instance, and it’s up to the adoption team to understand the unique needs of its animals.
Meggan told us she’ll often give her personal cell number to fosters and adopters so they can reach out with any questions, day or night.
“We never shut our door, so to speak — we’re always available,” Meggan said. “We never give up on our dogs.”
The Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation supports a community of animal lovers in the heart of Los Angeles. From the health clinic to the adoption events, the rescue offers a place of healing, hope, and heart where families can come together.
Looking to the future, Animal Hope & Wellness plans to continue rescuing animals from dire situations and giving them a new lease on life. The leadership team is currently looking to expand into a full-on sanctuary with space for its dogs to run, farm animals to graze, and other rescues to recover.
At the end of the day, volunteers, dog owners, and animal advocates all have a role to play in AHWF’s effort to make a difference and give neglected and abused animals a new beginning.
“The joy, laughter, peace, and love they bring to our home is indescribable,” Jason and Kimberly said about their dogs. “We are so thankful to AHWF for all they have done — for Tiger and Margo, for us, and for thousands of other dogs and families.”