Tonawanda News

February 22, 2014

TONAWANDA: A four-legged cause

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Two local residents who have experienced the love a foster dog can give have started an animal rescue organization to save the lives of pets who have been abused, neglected and forgotten.

Paula LaVango, of the Town of Tonawanda, and Jill Stegall, of North Tonawanda, founded Buffalo C.A.R.E.S. just two months ago to find homes for homeless pets in area shelters.

“There is such a need out there for rescue efforts,” Stegall, the vice president of the organization, said. “We’re just trying to help the pets that are overlooked and get them ready for homes — whether it’s helping with a health issue or a training problem.”

The nonprofit works with shelters to provide safe foster homes, training, necessary socialization and veterinary care. Although the organization just got its start, Stegall and LaVango have quickly gathered 50 volunteers to assist in their mission. Seven dogs have already been placed in permanent homes.

C.A.R.E.S., short for companion animal rescue for Evan and Snoopy, is named in the memory of the founder’s two foster pets. Both Stegall and LaVango jokingly call themselves “foster failures,” because they fell in love with their dogs and became their permanent owners.

“Snoopy lived in a Buffalo home where there was a murder and suicide,” Stegall said. “She was deemed dog aggressive and it was difficult for the SPCA to adopt her out.”

Stegall fostered Snoopy, eventually adopting her and caring for her after a cancer diagnosis until her death. LaVango also adopted her foster dog, Evan, who was very ill and wasn’t expected to survive.

“We just both couldn’t give them up,” LaVango said. 

Some of the rescue’s dogs have medical problems or are deaf, while others require training or are aggressive with other dogs.

A friendly American Staffordshire terrier named Niblet, for example, was at the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, where he was deemed aggressive following a stay at a foster home. Shelter volunteers contacted Buffalo C.A.R.E.S. and asked for their help.

“We had another evaluation done, and it turns out he just nibbles a little and is not at all aggressive,” LaVango said. “We are working with him and helping him with his house manners.”

The rescue is now looking for a foster home for Niblet so he can start becoming accustomed to living in a house, LaVango said.

Another dog, Moe, is in need of eye surgery, and Buffalo C.A.R.E.S. is fundraising to make that possible and end the animal’s discomfort. 

To assist Moe, Niblet and dozens of other dogs, the group is in need of donations, volunteers and foster homes.

“It has been growing much faster than we thought it would,” LaVango said. “We have volunteers who do transports and pick up donations. We need people who are good at fundraising and really those with all kinds of different skills. It’s not just fostering.”

Steggal said their goal is to one day set up their own volunteer-staff center where the dogs can stay while waiting for their owners to come along.

“That’s our dream, but we are just getting started,” she said.

For more information, visit Buffalo C.A.R.E.S. at

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.