Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) is an award-winning, nationally recognized leader for its unique, dual mission of People Rescuing Animals … Animals Rescuing People®. With 47,000 adoptions and counting, we also strengthen the human-animal bond through life-changing programs for children, seniors, Veterans, and under-resourced community members.
The catalyst for ARF came on May 7, 1990, during a televised baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. In the middle of an inning and amidst cheers from spectators, a stray tortoiseshell cat looking for food or shelter took a wrong turn and suddenly found herself on the playing field.
Trapped in the enormous Oakland Coliseum and frightened by the roar of the crowd, the frantic cat dashed around the field, desperately leaping at any means of escape and eluding the players and umpires who tried to capture her. Panicked and unable to find a way out, she sprinted towards the infield. Tony La Russa, then-manager for the Oakland Athletics, coaxed her gently into the A’s dugout, where she would spend the rest of the game in safe confines, exhausted from her ordeal.
Tony and his wife Elaine, a life-long animal advocate, discovered there wasn’t a shelter who could take her and the little cat would likely be euthanized. They took her under their wing and named her Evie, after Oakland A’s team owner Evie Haas. Tony and Elaine exhausted every lead in hopes of finding a safe haven. At last, they were able to place Evie in a permanent, loving home where she could live out her natural life.
Evie wouldn’t be the last “save” of Tony’s career.
The experience awakened Tony and Elaine to the desperate circumstances in under-resourced public animal shelters and the plight of homeless dogs and cats — and inspired them to take action. Less than a year later, they co-founded ARF to rescue dogs and cats before they ran out of time at shelters.
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ARF was founded in 1991 in donated office space with a small team of driven volunteers who worked tirelessly to save 157 dogs and cats during our first year. The rescue became a family affair, including Tony and Elaine’s daughters, Bianca and Devon, in it’s lifesaving work. It wasn’t long before the board of directors realized that of equal importance to rescuing animals was the remarkable role they play in people’s lives. Our dual mission of People Rescuing Animals … Animals Rescuing People® was born.
Humane education programs began a couple of years later to ingrain an early love of animals in school-aged children. Therapy animals and other programs introduced animals’ unconditional love and acceptance to seniors, veterans, at-risk youth, and more people in need. Programs to help low-income pet guardians keep their beloved pets in homes and out of shelters soon followed.
Despite humble beginnings, the construction of our Walnut Creek, California headquarters — a 37,700-square-foot animal care facility and community center — was completed in 2003. This critical milestone was the realization of a long-held dream: an animal shelter that felt more like a lifesaving resort. The homey condos set the standards for housing shelter guests in the animal welfare industry.
Our team continues to grow and expand lifesaving efforts — from evacuating animals impacted by natural disasters to an expansive foster family network to developing innovative safety net programs designed to support struggling pet guardians and keep pets out of shelters. In 2021 we added a new 7,900-square-foot Pets and Vets Training Center, an expanded 4,900-square-foot animal care wing and veterinary clinic to better serve veterans and rescue more animals, and a solar array for greater operational efficiency.
Our organization is a renowned local leader and national model in the animal welfare community. Thanks to supporters like you, we have found families for more than 47,000 dogs and cats, performed more than 56,000 spay and neuter surgeries to combat pet overpopulation, and graduated 59 rescue-turned-service dogs with their Veteran handlers.
Our mission of People Rescuing Animals … Animals Rescuing People® drives innovative programs that bring people and animals together to enrich each other’s lives. Our vision is to serve as a local and national model of a better future — one where pets are respected for the unique role they play in making the world a better place for people to live, and one where there is a stable and loving home for every pet to complete their natural lifespan.