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Meet Yvonne Hanson of Bow-Wows & Meows in Santa Clarita

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yvonne Hanson.

Yvonne (Allbee) Hanson started Bow-Wows & Meows in 2000, with a mission of matching adoptable shelter animals with potential families. Knowing the joy that her own rescued pets (at that time) Bear & Sam brought, Yvonne felt the community would support a pet fair if they knew how many great animals needed homes…and she was right. Over 2,300 L.A. County shelter animals have been adopted as a result of Bow-Wows & Meows over the last 16 pet fairs! Creating a unique opportunity for shelter pets to be given a different, more “happy” venue to get the exposure they deserve while the community can come, bring their own pets to show off and meet over 70 pet related vendors of pet supplies and services, Education, entertainment, Super Raffle, Fun Dog Show and even a low-cost vaccine clinic on site. Our greatest draw is all 7 LA County Shelters bring over 200 amazing dogs, cats, puppies & kittens who are looking for their forever homes. All shelter animals come to the fair already spayed or neutered, microchipped and immunized – ready to go home that day with their new families.

Yvonne and her husband Ian share their home with 4 shelter rescued pets: 2dogs; Jack & Henry (Bully/Sharpei mixes) and 2 cats: Monkey & Pixie – yes of course the cats run the house! Yvonne is a Registered Nurse leader who works in Hospice. She has volunteered for many local organizations, but Bow-Wows & Meows holds a special place in her heart and she looks forward to expanding the organization in the future.

Has it been a smooth road?
The idea of the fair was simple… and that idea was for a one day event. But, making the idea a reality is a different story. When the first fair happened in 2001, a reporter covering the then small fair asked “next year when you have the next fair….” What? Next year? Are you kidding? These were my thoughts at that time but here we are 17 years later. We became a non-profit organization, created a small volunteer board of directors, began sharing and marketing the beauty of adopting shelter pets, being a responsible pet owner, educating about bully breeds (which are completely misunderstood and maligned), recruiting vendors for the fair and so much more all the while we keep the fair FREE to the community to come and enjoy and to bring their well-behaved pet as well – we have NO breed restriction and work tirelessly for about 8 months out of the year to create a fun, inspiring, educational event that provides exposure to LA County shelter pets (who get little exposure) and we have to pay for it as well as countless additional responsibilities: rent park, buy insurance, health permits, fire safety permit, vendors, food trucks, entertainment, flyers, posters, advertisements, banners, rental equipment, etc… We, the small board of directors have our own lives, we work, have children, go to school, have responsibilities and still have to deal with life’s challenges of our own but together we work incredibly hard and are committed to making the best fair year after year for our community and especially for the animals. We honestly feel pretty broken the weekend of the fair (exhausted and hurting from extensive set up not to mention months of preparation in addition to life etc.) – However, when a dozen or more shelter trucks that arrive early in the morning full of homeless animals; barking and excited and tails wagging etc… all in need of a home and not knowing their own fate if they don’t find one… we then see over 200 of these amazing, beautiful homeless animals, we know that the time has come. We have a job to do… make the fair the best ever and provide this platform where these “unseen” pets can be seen and families can be created etc. It is then in one moment for us, at the end of the fair, we are all hot and sweaty, body aching, hungry and haven’t gone to the bathroom all day (TMI?) but then it happens. We announce the number of homeless adopted, we begin seeing the shelter trucks leave empty… we cry and we cheer together knowing that as hard as it is, as much as we sacrifice throughout the year – it is worth every moment because we know that almost 200 pets, homeless that very morning are homeless no more. Challenges? Obstacles? Almost constantly along the way. Worth it? Without question.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Bow-Wows & Meows – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Bow-Wows & Meows is a non-profit organization run by an all-volunteer board of directors. Our mission is to celebrate pets, encourage animal awareness and promote pet adoption within our community and beyond.

Bow-Wows & Meows was founded by Yvonne (Allbee) Hanson, a long-time Santa Clarita resident. She was sitting in her living room back in 2000 with her adopted pets (at that time), Bear (dog) and Sam (cat), when she realized how much they had contributed to her life. Yvonne wanted to spread the message of the wonderful benefits pets add to a person’s life and to match pet-less people with homeless pets.

The first event took place in 2001 and has grown to an incredibly popular pet fair that attracts more than 15,000 attendees to its annual event. Since its inception, Bow-Wows & Meows has adopted out more than 2,300 pets from Los Angeles County Shelters, as well as local rescues.

We are very well received by our community (and beyond) and we have never “sold out”. We have been offered extensive exposure for our fair, considerable money donations and numerous other things that we need so desperately but if those company do not support our mission, wish to sell something unrelated to our purpose at the fair or take any control away… we decline and just work harder for what we need.

Our fair is unique in that it is a true fair with many areas of fun and entertainment for all, it is FREE for people to attend even with their own pet and it provides exposure to the most unseen animals – the County shelter pets. We work to create an environment where people who have pets can fall in love again with them, where those who have children can educate them in a fun way, where some who have certain “understandings” can be empowered with the facts, often changing their misunderstanding, networking among pet related businesses take place, answers to questions are found, friendships are created and most importantly – animal’s lives are saved and families lives are changed forever.

For these things, I am most proud.

If you had to start over, what would you have done differently?
Oh my…. (breathe)… if I had to start over, I would let go of the little things and focus more on the big picture, I would find more people with skill sets and knowledge that could contribute to the areas of need we have had and not just people who love animals (but both), I would trust people more with responsibilities and not feel as though I must do it all myself (I’m getting better at this), I would get more sleep. I would not feel that I am responsible for the lives of every shelter pet that comes to the fair and that I am not responsible for the fate of those that are not adopted. (I’m still working on this one). Sigh.

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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