With her dream to become the first female president, Riley Rolph often professed that her first order of business was to prevent any shelter animal from euthanasia.
“She wholeheartedly believed in this and told me often,” recalled Riley’s mom, Julie Taft, of Thousand Oaks.
So when Riley passed away in 2009 as a result of an ongoing battle with a congenital heart condition, her mother decided to carry on Riley’s wish. One year later, she established the Riley Rolph Animal Rescue Foundation, a nonprofit that places animals in foster care until they can find a forever home.
“After Riley passed, my husband and I, plus many supportive friends, wanted to honor Riley in a way inspired by her—something she would be proud and excited to be a part of,” Taft said. “And honestly, I was a stay-at-home mom and my world had been crushed so I needed to figure out what to do with my life. Fast forward six years later and here we are.”
At Riley’s Rescue, most of the animals they have homed were pulled from shelters, while some have been surrendered by their owners. The rescue has also helped senior animals whose owners have passed away.
“Any animals that are in Riley’s Rescue care are kept with a foster until placed with a forever home,” Taft explained. “If the animals have been pulled from a shelter or owner surrendered, they are all checked by a veterinarian to make sure all vaccines are current, they are spayed or neutered and their general health is good.”
Since the rescue was launched in 2010, they have found forever homes for at least 700 animals.
“We have helped other rescues by paying vet bills and providing supplies,” said Taft. “Riley’s Rescue has pulled hundreds from shelters and placed them in loving homes.”
The Thousand Oaks home of Dawn Bloom was among them.
“My daughter, Summer Bloom, knew Riley through her best friend Courtney Chelebian from elementary school,” Bloom said.
Summer had wanted a puppy for a long time.
“So when we decided the time was right, we wanted to support a foundation we knew that was in it for the better of the animals and truly reaching out to help animals in need,” Bloom said. “This foundation obtains animals from high-kill shelters and animals in danger of death or worse.”
It is very important that people like Taft, and the Riley Rolph Animal Rescue Foundation, stand up and speak for the animals that can’t speak for themselves, Bloom added.
“It’s so comforting to know that the animals lucky enough to find their way to Riley Rolph Animal Rescue Foundation are well cared for and offered a free vet visit to comfort new adoptees,” Bloom said. “And each new family is properly interviewed to make sure it is the best match up for both the family and the animal.”
Today, the nonprofit’s main focus is providing free mobile spay and neuter clinics in low-income areas.
Riley’s Rescue is currently working with the Camarillo Animal Shelter to target the highest intake neighborhoods by providing mobile clinics every month.
“Prevention and education is the best way to help stop the overpopulation of unwanted and abused animals that end up in shelters,” Taft said.
To that end, the future of the nonprofit includes providing as many free mobile spay and neuter clinics monthly as possible for low-income areas, plus education.
“We will be working with other resources that help the homeless so we can provide services for their animals as well,” Taft said. “And of course, we will always help place loving animals in forever homes.”
This huge task would not be possible without the team of volunteers who are the lifeblood of the operation.
Peggy Simon, of Newbury Park, started volunteering at Riley’s Rescue more than five years ago.
“I met Julie and learned about Riley’s Rescue while I was a volunteer at another rescue that Riley’s Rescue was helping to support,” Simon recalled.
While there are many animal rescues doing great things, “I chose Riley’s Rescue because after meeting and getting to know Julie and seeing how much she cared about not only the animals, but about people, I knew I wanted to help in any way that I could,” Simon said.
She volunteers at least a few hours a week and donates more time if a fundraiser or adoption event is underway.
“I am there for road trips to Bakersfield with Julie to bring supplies to the small out-of-the way shelters and to bring back dogs that have no chance of being adopted where they are,” Simon said.
She has also fostered all the kittens for Riley’s Rescue.
“I think in the last three years I have fostered between 50 and 60 kittens,” Simon said. “We have successfully placed all of them in loving fur-ever homes.”
Above all, “we all love and care about the dogs and cats that are rescued,” Simon added.
“Riley’s Rescue was started to honor the memory of a wonderful young girl, Riley, because of her love for animals,” she said. “I think she would be very proud of what her parents, Julie and Eric, have done to better the lives of so many dogs and cats. I am very proud to call Julie and Eric my friends, and be a small part of this wonderful organization.”
The Riley Rolph Animal Rescue Foundation is headquartered in Thousand Oaks. For more information, visit RileysRescue.org.