A Pop Up Helps Underserved Pet Owners in LA

This Saturday, May 14, the Michelson Found Animals Foundation, along with California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, SPAY4LA, Watts Labor Community Action Committeeand numerous other partners will host a Better Neighbor Project pop up at Los Angeles’s Plaza de La Raza (3540 N Mission Road) from 10 am to 2 pm. The event will support neighborhood pet owners by offering free supplies and wellness services, including grooming, veterinary check ups, vaccinations, microchipping, and more.

It is the latest in a series of similar pop ups that began in 2020 when foundation co-chairs Ayla and Dr. Gary Michelson saw a growing need in underserved Los Angeles communities hit hard by pandemic-related financial hardship. The program provides several levels of support, from immediate relief such as free bags of pet food and grooming supplies to free legal and social services counseling for pet owners who need help finding affordable housing that welcomes pets.

Ayla Michelson at a Better Neighbor Project pet wellness event in 2021.

Paul Archuleta

“It’s not just enough to help the animals. Our goal is to keep families and pets together,” said Ayla Michelson, who along with being a philanthropist is also an artist and musician. “You have to provide support to people through the whole process of pet ownership so they don’t find themselves in a terrible situation of having to give animals to shelters.”

The Better Neighbor Project is one of several animal-related initiatives under the umbrella of Michelson Found Animals, a private foundation that is part of Michelson Philanthropies. Next month, another project, the Michelson Institute for Pet Professionals will welcome its newest class of students training to receive certificates in pet grooming. The goal of the institute is to create opportunities for individuals in underserved communities who are interested in pursuing careers in pet care by offering instruction, free grooming kits, and job placement assistance. “There are good jobs in the animal care industry and we and our partners see an opportunity to connect some of the very people we’re meeting at the Better Neighbor Project events—individuals who clearly love and care for animals—to careers that will bring them joy and also help their communities,” said Ayla.

Michelson Found Animals Launched after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, offering free microchipping services (when a seed-size micro transmitter containing the owner’s name and contact information is inserted just below a pet’s skin) around the country. “Along with the terrible human tragedy brought on by that storm there was a tragedy of pets ending up lost and separated from their owners and placed in overwhelmed shelters,” said Ayla. “Gary knew that so many of those separations could have been prevented if owners had just had access to an effective microchip program.” Gary Michelson, an orthopedic surgeon and medical inventor, started the foundation both to make microchips more available and to insure that owners had access to a service that didn’t require annual fees to keep pets on a registry. “Once an animal has a chip, the information on it should be available for as long as the animal is alive,” Ayla said.

michelson found animals

Ayla and Dr. Gary Michelson accepting a humanitarian award at an Inner City Law Center luncheon on May 10, 2022.

Gabor Ekecs

Earlier this week, the Michelsons were given a humanitarian award by the Inner City Law Center, a Los Angeles non-profit organization, for their support of homeless, immigrant, and incarcerated pet owners. “While my wife and I are honored by this, the award goes to the people who work for us,” Dr. Michelson said at the Center’s fundraising luncheon. “Every one of them is personally passionate about the work that they’re doing. What our organizations and the Inner City Law Center have in common is we’re both trying to help people who have so very little and to make life just a little less unfair.”

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