Area residents will not soon forget the harrowing days of the Woolsey and Hill fires when raging firestorms burned thousands of acres, destroying hundreds of homes and causing more than 200,000 people and their pets to take refuge in evacuation centers.

As some 1,100 evacuees from Thousand Oaks, Calabasas, Oak Park and Malibu found their way to Red Cross-designated evacuation center Pierce College in Woodland Hills, animal welfare and emergency relief organization Operation Blankets of Love was there to help.

Operation Blankets of Love

Ensuring evacuees’ pets had the necessary provisions, OBOL provided dog and cat food, treats, leashes, collars and blankets harnesses, crates, water and food bowls, toys and towels to hundreds of pets in need. Pets brought to the evacuation center were allowed to stay with their owners in the gym as long as they were in crates, so OBOL passed out hundreds of crates to pets of all types.

“From Friday to Monday, our volunteers were at the fire scene 24 hours each day,” said Eileen Smulson, who cofounded OBOL with her husband, Brad, to provide the comforts of home to pets in shelters. The organization helps at least 1,000 animals a month, in addition to serving as an emergency response team, partnering with the Red Cross and other relief organizations to help displaced or endangered animals.

With 280 animals, including 153 horses, 20 mini-horses, five donkeys, eight goats, six sheep, 14 chickens and two tortoises sheltered at Pierce College Equestrian Center as well as hundreds of pets in the gym, OBOL, along with The Little Angels Project in Agoura Hills, veterinarians, Pierce College students from the Veterinary Technology program and countless volunteers joined forces to ensure the animals’ well-being.

During the disaster, OBOL also rescued animals evacuated from spay/neuter clinic Fix Nation, as well as a local pet hotel where they provided food and relief for about 200 animals.

“It was a hellish effort,” Brad recalls, praising the efforts of the sheriffs, first responders, police and fire departments, County of Los Angeles Animal Care and Control and the many volunteers who showed up to lend a hand.

“We had a ton of offers of help, and a ton of donations came in,” Brad says.

Learn more or donate to Operation Blankets of Love at


Veterinary Angels Medical Center & The Little Angels Project

Veterinary Angels Medical Center in Agoura Hills aided hundreds of animals impacted by the wildfires, setting up a pop-up clinic at Pierce College to attend to animals’ medical needs.

“Our practice was evacuated, but our nonprofit, the Little Angels Project, helps in rescue situations like this,” says Darlene Geekie, founder of Veterinary Angels Medical Center. Working tirelessly during the chaos to help animals in need, Geekie and her team offered free services to anyone affected by the fires.

“We have to solve community problems within the community, so we all need to work together,” says Geekie, whose nonprofit aims to reduce euthanasia rates of domestic and exotic animals with advanced medical needs by providing surgical and medical treatment.

Frequently coming to the aid of both domestic and exotic animals from rescue facilities and sanctuaries, the Little Angels Project leads education efforts while encouraging other veterinary facilities to follow suit in their communities and partners with other animal welfare organizations that have similar goals.

Veterinary Angels Medical Center is located at 29348 Roadside Drive, in Agoura Hills.


Shelter Hope Pet Shop

During the fires, Kim Sill, founder of Shelter Hope Pet Shop, sprang into action.

“We set up an evacuation center next to our shop at the Janss Market Place and during that two-week period we were very surprised at what made the humans and their pets more comfortable—turns out it was dog toys!” laughs Sill.

To help with their efforts, Shelter Hope Pet Shop is hosting a Spring Fling toy drive for rescue dogs.

“We are asking the community to donate a new or gently used clean dog or cat toy to one of our drop-off locations,” says Sill. Donations can be dropped off at Pet Food Express on Moorpark Road, Camp Bow Wow in Agoura, Indiana Bones and the Temple of Groom on Thousand Oaks Blvd, the Toyota Dealership on Thousand Oaks Blvd, and of course, “You can drop off to us at Shelter Hope Pet Shop in the Janss Market Place,” Sill adds.

Dedicated to finding forever homes to rescue dogs, Shelter Hope Pet Shop believes in doing its part to help the community as well.

“Currently we are helping furloughed government workers that own pets by giving them food and supplies,” says Sill.

Shelter Hope Pet Shop is located at the Janss Market Place, 193 N Moorpark Road, in Thousand Oaks.


Paw Works

Paw Works is a Southern California nonprofit animal rescue dedicated to partnering with county and city shelters to give abandoned animals a second chance at life. In just three years, Paw Works has saved over 3,200 abandoned dogs and cats and placed them in caring homes. Their ultimate goal is to address animal overpopulation and abandonment through education, awareness and community-driven programs that offer spaying and neutering, training and veterinary care in underserved areas.

This month, on March 16, Paw Works hosts MardiPaws, a New Orleans-inspired fundraiser at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village! Festivities include a cocktail hour with live music, a sit down three-course dinner, goodie bags, live and silent auctions, live performances and interactive stations. Tickets ($250) are available at

Paw Works is located at The Oaks Mall, 180 W Hillcrest #E109, in Thousand Oaks.


Valley Cats

When a cat experiences extreme stress, it often shuts down and can become sick. The nonprofit all-volunteer cat rescue Valley Cats was founded in 1999 to rescue cats and kittens in need, rehabilitate and re-home them. Working with rescues that are often hurt, sick, scared or abandoned, the volunteers at Valley Cats attend to each cat’s medical needs and nurture them back to health until they are ready for adoption.

Volunteers are always welcomed and rewarded for their efforts.

“You can’t imagine what a wonderful feeling it is to see a ‘throw-away’ cat rebound and love and trust again,” shares a volunteer.

Valley Cats’ cage-free adoption center in Westlake Village is open weekends from 12-4 p.m.

Visit Valley Cats at 790 Hampshire Road Unit H, in Westlake Village.