Houdini’s rescue two years ago helped launch local organization

Published in the January 24 – February 6, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Kenny first came to All Animal Rescue & Friends after he was hit by a car and his pelvis and femur were badly broken. Photo courtesy All Animal Rescue and Friends

A little white terrier mix dog named Houdini helped start a nonprofit organization that has achieved magic for hundreds of dogs, cats and other animals throughout the South Valley region. All Animal Rescue & Friends, also known as “AARF,” makes sure many four-legged critters have happier lives.

Houdini roamed the streets of Morgan Hill for a few months before he was finally rescued in February 2016 by a group of concerned residents. The escape artist pup eventually found a home with a local family. The dog’s rescue inspired South Valley residents Jenifer Lepow, Gwen Dorich and Erin Janson to launch a Facebook page to help lost animals return to their families or find a new home.

“A lot of us here in the community were always trying to help reunite lost and found dogs and we did rescue on our own, fostering for other organizations,” Lepow said. “We really had this need to help animals where we could. The community got more and more involved. There’s a sense that this is an animal-loving community.”

The social media page grew to more than 400. (It’s now almost 4,500.) As volunteers rescued more and more animals, the dogs and cats often didn’t have a shelter to be taken to. Sometimes there was space in San Martin County Shelter or in a shelter in San Jose that took in dogs.

“The Facebook page really made more people get off their couch or get out from behind their computer and go rescue animals,” Lepow said. “But there really wasn’t any place for these animals to go, so we kept hearing people telling us that we should start our own nonprofit and then you can adopt them out yourselves.”

The three women filed the paperwork and AARF became a nonprofit in May 2016. It has grown since then to bring animal-loving locals together to help not only stray and lost dogs and cats but other animals including neglected pigs and farm animals in danger from wildfires or flooding in the region.

“As the name suggests, we rescue all animals,” Lepow said. “Shortly after we incorporated, we rescued 13 pigs from a research facility, and this past year we rescued another three pot belly pigs that were abandoned in a backyard in San Jose. Two of them ended up being pregnant, so we ended up having 13 piglets as well.”

During last year’s record floods, AARF volunteers participated in pulling cows, goats and even baby turkeys out of flood waters and putting them in trailers to be taken to safety.

In less than two years, they have successfully placed more than 200 animals into loving homes (and farms and sanctuaries) and are looking to place even more this year.

Visit www.AARFlove.org to learn more.