Kaya Gwinn, founder of Shiloh’s Animal Rescue, with Stella, a dog she saved from euthanasia at a Los Angeles shelter, and her adopted dog Shiloh. Stella is available for adoption in Los Osos. Photo by Theresa-Marie Wilson
One of the biggest challenges animal shelters face today is rising populations combined with declining adoption rates. In some shelters that means more animals in need of homes are euthanized every day. A Los Osos woman is hoping to change that, one dog at a time.
Kaya Gwinn is a firm believer that everyone deserves a “fair chance in life,” and a little more than a month ago the 21-year-old took action. She started Shiloh’s Animal Rescue with the mission of rescuing dogs who had been red-listed, meaning they were soon to be killed.
“Most of the shelters that are overcrowded are those in the LA area,” Kaya said. “Due to inflation, many pet owners have surrendered their animals or abandoned them on the streets. It’s really bad right now. Seeing the staggering number of red-listed dogs is what drew me to the cause.”
According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), each year, approximately 920,000 animals are euthanized (390,000 dogs and 530,000 cats).
While looking at red-listed dogs online, Kaya was repeatedly drawn to one in particular named Stella, a 1-year-old German shepherd/Doberman pinscher mix.
“I saw her picture for a couple of days,” she said, “and I knew it was an urgent list. I just couldn’t wait any longer. I was like, ‘Okay, nobody’s coming for her. I have to. I can’t say no.’”
Kaya, who holds an associate’s degree in criminology and is studying animation, hit the road, drove about eight hours round trip using her own money for gas and came home with Stella. Since then, in the last month she has saved a total of six dogs from euthanasia, two have been adopted and the rest are living with pet fosters. Stella is among the dogs looking for a forever home.
Animal rescue is a difficult undertaking and not something everyone can handle. In addition to the time, the travel and the cost, there is an emotional cost knowing there is an overwhelming number of animals that need to be saved. A number that would drop dramatically if more pets were spayed or neutered.
“It is very emotionally taxing,” Kaya said. “I have a hard time knowing I can’t rescue them all, and an even harder time leaving them behind. It’s extremely difficult, but I would also say that at the same time it’s one of the nicest feelings in the world. The most rewarding part of this is seeing how the dogs lighten up as soon as they leave the shelter, seeing how many dogs lives I have changed and watching them get adopted to live a long happy life.”
Future plans for the young animal advocate include registering Shiloh’s Animal Rescue as an official non-profit.
“I think a non-profit would be highly beneficial, because then I could partner with larger companies because they’ll see the certification,” Kaya said. “It would help in working with shelters too. There are dogs that are on lists for rescue only. If I was partnered with the shelter, I would be able to get that dog out. The shelters would know me, so I could put holds on dogs instead of rushing over there like I usually do.”
For now, Kaya will keep spreading the message, doing the work and saving as many lives as she can.
“I saw just how many dogs were euthanized every day due to overcrowding, and I wanted to make a difference,” she said. “Dogs deserve better. I can give them more time than they would have at the shelter. No story should end too soon.”
For more information, to donate or to adopt a dog, go to shilohsanimalrescue.com.
Donations can also me made via Venmo under ShilohsAnimalRescue or gofundme.com under Shiloh’s Animal Rescue with the heading “Help animals from being unnecessarily euthanized.” Financial donations go towards food, medical care, supplies and more for the dogs. Volunteers are also needed to foster or help walk dogs and play with them.
Another way to support Shiloh’s Animal Rescue is to participate in the upcoming event, Smash Bros. Ultimate Charity Tournament, on August 1 at 5:30 p.m. at Boss Battles Arcade, 1240 Los Osos Valley Road, Suite 2 in Los Osos. Players and spectators are welcome, half the proceeds go to Shiloh’s. Register at bossbattlesarcade.com under tournaments.