Howling for forever homes

Posted: September 22nd, 2017 | Features, From the cover, Pets, Top Stories | No Comments

By Sara Butler

Adoptable dogs featured at Howl-O-Ween Hounds event

If you’re looking for Halloween plans that are more sweet than spooky, Howl-O-Ween Hounds may just be the treat for you.

Howl-O-Ween Hounds, an adoption event at Grossmont Center, brings together dozens of pet adoption agencies ­— 25 and counting, at the time of publication — in an effort to connect these animals with loving owners.

The Howl-O-Ween Hounds event will feature an adoption event and dogs dressed in costume. (Courtesy Darlene White)

The second annual event features hundreds of pups, many dressed up in costumes for the holiday. While dogs make up the majority of the adoptable animals available, cats and turtles will also be in attendance.

Many of the animals available for adoption will be from San Diego. However, some rescues from Hurricane Harvey – taken in by the organizations Labradors and Friends Dog Rescue as well as Friends of Cats – may also be available for adoption. Additionally, dogs rescued from Baja California will join the pack.

Hershey, of Labradors and Friends Dog Rescue, dresses as a unicorn. (Photo by Foz and Boom Photography)

The dogs featured at this event are the ones often overlooked by potential adopters and may end up stuck in shelters for months, according to Alondra Gomez of Animal Rescuers Without Borders.

“Howl-O-Ween Hounds is guided toward animals that don’t get a lot of attention at shelters,” Gomez said. “Some may be less-desired breeds while others don’t photograph well in their online bios. When someone interested in adopting walks by [at the event], they may fall in love with a dog and their personality once they see and interact with the animal face to face.”

San Diego Animal Support Foundation (SDASF) hosts Howl-O-Ween Hounds and holds four other adoption events during the year. According to their website, the organization is “dedicated to improving the welfare of animals in overburdened, underfunded local shelters and rescues.” Darlene White, SDASF’s executive director, is the mastermind behind Howl-O-Ween Hounds and the other adoption events.

“I joke that small shelters like us have trouble networking – we prefer dogs to people,” said Adelle Schmitt, president of Dog Fur Days. “[White] does an amazing job at coordinating all of the organizations and making sure these pets find their forever homes.”

All of the SDASF events average around 100 adopted pets in a four-hour time span. Most are themed, such as Santa Paws, Cupid and Canines, and Dog Days of Summer. In the past 15 years, Grossmont Center has opened up their outdoor space for these events pro bono.

“We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support of Grossmont Center,” White said. “They really do have the community in mind.”

While there won’t be any Halloween candy for the pups, there will be some other goodies­. San Diego Pet Hospital will give free vet advice and a bag of kibble to new adopters. Grossmont Center’s booth will contribute free refillable pet waste bags that can hook onto leashes. Great Pyrenees Association of Southern California Rescue’s booth will feature a photo booth where attendees can donate money to snap a shot with one of the pups.

Peacock dog at last year’s Howl-O-Ween (Courtesy Great Pyrenees Association)

Although adoption is certainly cause for celebration, the Halloween event will be mellow, with no food, alcohol, vendors or live music present. This ensures the animals are matched with safe, secure homes.

Gomez notes that Howl-O-Ween Hounds is intended to attract those who are serious about adding a new member to the family, but may be on the fence.

“Often these events get cold feet a little warmer in the adoption process,” she said.

Adoption eligibility depends on the rescue organization. Each participating group has their requirements listed on their website, along with a list of pets that are currently available. Interested adopters can fill out an application online or at the event.

All adoptable animals are spayed, neutered, microchipped and fully vaccinated. Many are also vet-checked and come from foster homes, which takes much of the guesswork out of adopting.

If you can’t commit to a lifelong friend at the moment, there are still ways you can help out.

Stella, of Labradors and Friends Dog Rescue, looking festive at last year’s event (Photo by Foz and Boom Photography)

“If people don’t want to adopt or aren’t ready, they are welcome to stop by and find out about temporary fostering,” White said. “It’s kind of like a job fair – interested individuals can talk to different groups about their programs and choose who they like best.”

Volunteers are also encouraged. An average of 60–100 volunteers, ranging from high school students to individuals fulfilling court-ordered community service, help out at the rescue organization booths.

Whether you are looking to adopt, foster or volunteer, all are welcome at the free event.

“Howl-O-Ween Hounds gives people the opportunity to see that there are so many adoptable dogs in San Diego and generates awareness about how many rescue organizations are out there,” said Kimberly Keller, adoption/foster coordinator at Great Pyrenees Association of Southern California Rescue. “The event also promotes the philosophy ‘adopt, don’t shop’ and can segue into more adoptions outside of the event.”

Howl-O-Ween Hounds will be held on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. at Grossmont Center, 5500 Grossmont Center Drive. While the outdoor space will be packed with booths, all stores in the shopping mall will remain open.

Visit the Facebook event page at for an updated list of participating organizations. For more information, contact the San Diego Animal Support Foundation at, or 619-847-8755.

Bonus events

In addition to Howl-O-Ween Hounds, there will be another local Halloween-themed adoption events happening next month held at Harry Griffin Park.

The Canine Corner’s Annual Halloween Party and Dog Costume Contest will be held Saturday, Oct. 14 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. hosted by the Canine Corners Dog Park in La Mesa. The event will feature a dog rally, agility coarse, food, lots of vendors, rescue groups and a costume contest.

On-leash activities will be held in Harry Griffin Regional Park’s grass area and off-leash events held in the dog park.

Contact or visit for more information.

Also, La Mesa Boulevard Stroll’s next event – billed as “Halloween on the Boulevard” — will feature Lionel’s Legacy Senior Dog Rescue. The El-Cajon based nonprofit will bring along older, adoptable dogs available for adoption. There will also be a Pet/Kidz Halloween Costume Parade at 1–3 p.m. at the Yogurt Mill Courtyard.

The free, family-friendly event also offers other festivities such as trick-or-treating and live music. “Halloween on the Boulevard” will be held on Sunday, Oct. 22 from noon–5 p.m. on La Mesa Boulevard. Visit for more information.

­­–Sara Butler is the web editor and social media manager at SDCNN. Reach her at

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