North Star Rescue Is A Place Of Many Champions

Homeless rats, mice, guinea pigs and other small animal pets in the Bay Area find refuge with the people at North Star Rescue who champion them, but sometimes the animals are the ones helping people and being champions.

Jenn Paz holds a rat
Courtesy of Maya Azzaro 
Jenn Paz holds her favorite rat ever, Seymour. He passed away this past May.

Where do all of the homeless small animal pets, such as hamsters, rats and guinea pigs, end up? The typical animal shelters do not take them, usually because homeless cats and dogs require all their resources and/or because the small animal pets require specialized care they are unable to provide. The fate of these pets is often not a happy one. Thankfully, there are people out there fighting for those lost little souls. And one of them is Jenn Paz of North Star Rescue in Pacifica, California.

All Pet Rodents Are Welcome!
North Star Rescue is very unique in that it is the only rescue organization in the Bay Area specifically dedicated to all species of pet rodents. It is also not an entity limited to one location or role. Paz said some of the many services the multipurpose organization provides include rescue and foster services for California shelters, public adoptions of small animals, behavioral advice and educational events. 

“Unlike a traditional shelter, North Star Rescue has several different locations,” Paz said. “We are a network run by dedicated volunteers who have united under the common goal of keeping small animals from being euthanized when they have nowhere else to go.”

How A Merger Created A Mighty Organization
Paz has a lot going for her. And I do mean a lot! She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology at England’s Reading University and completed her Master of Counselling at Edinburgh University. As if that isn’t impressive enough, she pursued a PhD in biology at the University of Stirling and completed half of that. Paz is a ball of energy and has a boundless passion for animals of all types. But her heart truly lies with the often-overlooked smaller species that people sometimes take for granted. Seeing the need for rescuers and shelters for small pet companions, she combined her love of animal welfare with her education and skill sets to found Coastside Cavy in 2013. However, she soon found herself wanting to expand her efforts with helping guinea pigs to also include other pet rodents. 

It is always beneficial for animal welfare organizations to work together to further their goals. Through networking, eventually Paz of Coastside Cavy established a relationship with Lauren Paul, the founder and director of North Star Rescue; a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Last year, the two entities merged to create a wonderful new enterprise that reaches out not just to help the small animals that come through their doors, but those who don’t. 

By the fall of 2014, Paz became the Rescue Director of the new coalition that is today’s North Star Rescue, relieving Paul of her position. 

Paul explains how it all came about, “Over a short period of time we found that we worked very well together, and when I found myself needing to relocate out of state, I made Jenn the lucrative offer of taking over my job as the head of North Star Rescue. There’s not a lot of people I could imagine who would jump at the opportunity to take on a job that includes a lot of physical work, paperwork, long hours, no vacation and no pay, but Jenn was excited at the chance for us to combine our two groups and start making something even bigger and more impactful.”

Today Paul is still very active in the organization and has taken on the role of Director of Technology and Co-Executive Director.

A Plan For Success
Oh but we are not done describing Paz’s achievements in the animal world yet. In the spring of last year, Paz opened up Dandelion Dreams Pet Supplies, a small pet supply shop that doubles as the headquarters of North Star Rescue. 

“I created it with the intention of getting the rescue to a self-supporting position eventually,” Paz said. “I am always trying to create new ways to make it a self-sustainable business.”

Although they’ve been small thus far, profits go back to the rescue. The perks are that the rescue doesn’t pay rent and it takes up almost 80 percent of the retail space. The boutique offers unique products that they have designed themselves, such as Pawprint Kits for memorializing beloved small pets, Piggie Pedi balm to soothe guinea pig feet, and Nekkie Balm for the hairless and hairless parts of small animals. Paz says that they are working on many other items as well. 

“It is a super cool space!” Paz said.

North Star Rescue at events
Top two images Courtesy of Maggie Amiano/bottom image courtesy of Lauren Paul
Part of North Star Rescue’s mission is to educate people about small animal pets. The top two images are from the San Francisco SPCA Animal Camp event where Jenn Paz of North Star Rescue was invited to speak. The bottom image is the North Star Rescue booth at the Nihonmachi Street Fair.

Networking Works For Animal Rescue, Too!
The strength of Paz and North Star Rescue lies in the fact that they network with such a wide variety of organizations that help animals, as well as with professionals, shelters, businesses, and so on to further their mission. The San Francisco SPCA is one of the many that they work with. Maggie Amiano is the Humane Education Manager. She originally sought out North Star Rescue to foster and adopt small pets like guinea pigs and rats for their educational programs, and Paz brought the adorable critters to one of their camps. 

“She spoke to the kids in a respectful, fun and informative way,” Amiano said. “She is passionate about animals and gets the kids excited about learning how to care for and respect the animals.”

She marvels at how innovative the organization is and how open to new ideas Paz is. 

“North Star Rescue is a fantastic organization changing the face of small animal adoption and saving countless lives along the way,” Amiano said. “North Star Rescue is progressive, helpful, creative, endlessly compassionate, and doing more than their part to ending small animal overpopulation and euthanasia.” 

People Help Pets And Pets Help People
North Star Rescue has countless champions coming through its doors, human and animal alike. Perhaps there are no greater champions than those who adopt. Heather Williamson and John Gridley have adopted a total of three guinea pigs thus far. 

“From the first phone call with Jenn I felt like she was a longtime friend,” Williamson said. “She is very personal and knowledgeable. She is always friendly and makes herself available whenever needed.” 

They adopted Treysi Donnabee Smirkin and Crü Ella DeVille. Later, little Ella passed away and poor Treysi fell into a depression. So they went back to North Star Rescue — and this time they brought the lone piggy along to help pick her cagemate. Well, Treysi picked two! 

Gridley has nothing but words of praise for Paz. “She truly cares about the animals even after they have been adopted,” he said. “Her service doesn’t stop once the animals leave her rescue.” 

Paz believes the real champions, however, are the rescued animals. She feels honored to have been part of their lives, and each has a unique story. 

Three tiny champions entered another adopters life when she came through North Star Rescue’s doors seeking a small companion to help her son with anxiety issues. 

“She [Jenn] said that rats were by far the friendliest of the rodents — they love humans and human contact,” the adopter said. “The rats have definitely been amazing. They’re very friendly and cute and smart, and my son gets a lot of joy from playing with them and taking care of them.”

And, true to form, the pet rats have been a great comfort to her son. One has even “helped” him with his homework when he sits on his shoulder. It should be no surprise that something as engaging and bonding as a rat would be the perfect answer for someone needing comfort. 

boy holding rat
It’s true, rats can offer comfort and smiles to people. 

Rescuing, Fundraising And Fun For Small Animals
Something is always going on at North Star Rescue. Along with typical rescues of single or small numbers of pet rodents, they are occasionally faced with mass rescues. Right now they are handling a large rat hoarding case in the East Bay involving upwards of 500 rats. There are ongoing educational services and projects throughout the year. One of the events that the organization hosts is the annual Pignic. This usually occurs in Cupertino, but this year it expanded to include a pignic in Novato, too. That took place on August 22.  The Cupertino pignic takes place on September 12. These are fun events for guinea pigs and guinea pig lovers that fundraise for local guinea pig rescues and help raise public awareness of the need for adopting guinea pigs. 

There is plenty planned for the future. 

“We have recently entered into a new partnership with the Oakland Animal Shelter to create a small animal program for their organization,” Paz said. “The shelter used to be run under the police department, but last year they were separated and the new director Rebecca Katz, former Director of SFACC, is completely overhauling the program there. She has always been a big supporter of small animals and we love working with her.”

North Star Rescue hosts and is part of several events over the year. And Paz hopes to organize a new one called Rataplooza.

500 Rats Need Rescuing Near San Francisco 

Ways To Help Out
Do you want to help Paz help the pet rodents that have so little help? There are many ways to do so, and not all require money.

1. Simple words of encouragement go a long, long way to lift morale and help reenergize Paz and her staff so they can keep forging ahead to help pet rodents. So feel free to heap on the compliments! 

2. Donations are always welcome and can be made through PayPal or by sending a check to North Star Rescue, c/o Dandelion Dreams, 1610 Francisco Blvd., Pacifica, CA 94010.

3. Volunteers are crucial to their work. If you’d like to help hands-on, contact Volunteer Coordinator Karen Cravatto at for more information to learn how you can do so. There are plenty of ways to offer a helping hand such as animal care, transportation, and event help. 

4. Fostering is a wonderful way to contribute to the wellbeing of the needy souls at North Star Rescue. Please contact Foster Coordinator Carisa Puente at if you’d like to get involved and welcome a little one into your home. Lastly… adopt, adopt, adopt!

A Mission To Help Small Animal Pets
Paul said that North Star Rescue has taken in and adopted out no less than a thousand animals each year since 2010. Not all animals are adoptable. Animals with severe behavioral issues and medical conditions find a safe haven for the rest of their lives at the rescue, as it is a no-kill shelter. 

Paz and the volunteers at North Star Rescue are responsible for saving precious lives that would have otherwise been thrown away. They are available for consultation and offer assistance to anyone who needs it. Be a part of their venture. Visit their Facebook page and website, stop in and see Paz at Dandelion Dreams, or go to one of their events. Paz and her friends, human and non human, will infect you with their enthusiasm and make your day. So make theirs, and be part of their mission!
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Critters · Lifestyle