Westlake man takes pet message on the road

Spay-and-neuter bus for low-income animal owners

HOPE FLOATS—Two views of the Lucy Pet Foundation’sfloat in this year’s Rose Parade, an homage to special animals that make a difference in people’s lives.

HOPE FLOATS—Two views of the Lucy Pet Foundation’sfloat in this year’s Rose Parade, an homage to special animals that make a difference in people’s lives.

Westlake Village resident Joey Herrick has taken his concerns about pet overpopulation to the streets.

Herrick is the founder of the Lucy Pet Foundation, a nonprofit organization that operates a mobile pet neutering clinic for low-income residents in Los Angeles. He founded Lucy Pet in 2013 as a way to serve the community by reducing the number of unwanted pets.

“I owned Natural Balance Pet Foods for 25 years. We sold it and I knew I had to give back, so I decided to start a foundation,” Herrick said. “In our country, over 60,000 animals are euthanized each week. I wanted to stop pet overpopulation, so I have a spay-and-neuter bus, and started doing operations in Los Angeles. We’ve done over 17,000 free spay and neuters in Southern California.”

Photos courtesy of Betsy Martin

Photos courtesy of Betsy Martin

The Westlake Village-based foundation presented a float in this year’s Rose Parade that highlighted animals that made a difference in someone’s life. It featured a military dog whose owner was killed in Afghanistan, a search-and-rescue dog, a police canine and a puppy that was rescued from Hurricane Harvey.

Herrick has organized pet-centric Rose Parade floats for years, since his time at Natural Balance. He’s an advocate for healthy pet food made from high-quality ingredients and uses the floats as a way to advertise the benefits of a healthy diet, as well as a call to owners to have their four-legged friends sterilized.

When he started the foundation, Herrick paid for everything himself and provided free operations to the pets of people in need. He bought a bus and converted it into a mobile surgery unit so it could be driven to public spaces and the owners could bring their pets to be altered.

It didn’t take long for his efforts to get noticed, and now the Lucy Pet Foundation works in partnership with the City of Los Angeles. The city pays the foundation to drive its bus into low-income areas four days a week and provide free operations.

The organization performs over 6,000 surgeries a year and has plans to buy a second bus to provide the same services in Houston.

Herrick said the city was chosen after the foundation had been called to the area to help with the pets displaced by Hurricane Harvey last year.

“We got asked to go down there and help because the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Brazoria County, 40 miles outside of Houston, they didn’t have a vet,” Herrick said. “There were 400 animals there, no vet; it was two days after the hurricane hit. We went down there with our staff and took over for a week.”

Dr. Karen Halligan is the head veterinarian for the Lucy Pet Foundation. She managed the work in Houston and oversees the foundation’s veterinary operations.

“Typically we’ll do 30 surgeries in a day and we have two tables, so on Saturdays we do double-doctor days, so then we’ll do 60 to 70 surgeries,” Halligan said. “The places we’re at have thousands of pets that need to be fixed, so we’re constantly getting new pets. You figure one pit bull will have 15 puppies, and we’re only doing 30 operations once a month, so in the big scheme of things we’ll probably never reach a saturation point at the rate we’re going.”

The average price of a surgery is $300 for cats and $500 for dogs, though an animal’s breed and size can change the amount. Los Angeles subsidizes the cost and even calls Lucy Pet to neuter animals in city shelters.

The foundation is named after Herrick’s dog, Lucy, a stray Chihuahua his family rescued five years ago.

In addition to the foundation, Herrick founded and runs Lucy Pet Products, which produces pet food, cat litter and other merchandise. The company helps fund the foundation, which will allow it to provide more buses to serve as mobile clinics.

“I started (the company) to help fund the foundation because I need to get more buses,” he said.” I have to start fundraising but I don’t really know how to fundraise, but I know how to do products, so the idea was to have products and help fund the foundation.”