Paws & Claws Go to the Circus Sets Record

Levity Aerial Arts and Contortionist Lila Woodard took Santa Maria Valley Humane Society to New Heights

Santa Maria Valley Humane Society’s Paws & Claws Go To the Circus event on May 18th raised $174,599, a record fundraising event for our organization.

Levity Aerial Arts, an aerial acrobatics troupe from San Luis Obispo, joined by Santa Maria’s contortionist, Lila Woodard from Le PeTiT CiRqUe, took center stage for the Second Paws & Claws Go to the Circus fundraising event. The intimate evening benefited the only animal shelter in North Santa Barbara County that saves the lives of homeless dogs and cats by “rescuing from the rescues.” Ticket prices included fabulous hors d’oeuvres from Field to Table, specialty drinks from Tito’s Handmade Vodka, wine from Presqu’ile Winery and lots of carnival treats. Special circus-themed photo booth, contact juggling, and face painting rounded out the Circus Midway and were all included in the ticket price.

Also appearing under the Big Top was USDA Detector Dog Doomis demonstrating his scent detection capabilities with his handler Christine Tyler and K-9 Krypto, a 14-month old, high energy, black Labrador who just joined the Sheriff’s Department as a narcotics detection dog with his handler Custody Deputy Ur.

It Takes a Village…

An extra-special thanks is owed to our community partners for the success of the this event. Hometown heroes Towbe’s Villa del Sol, Santa Maria Times, Honda of Santa Maria, Community Bank of Santa Maria, Curation Foods, and Jean Morton Real Estate all generously helped to sponsor Paws & Claws Go to the Circus. Important national underwriting partners Purina and Tito’s Handmade Vodka also help to make this event possible.

“We were so excited to have Levity Aerial Arts return to perform at Santa Maria Valley Humane Society for our Paws & Claws Go to the Circus,” says Sean Hawkins, Executive Director for the organization. “We enlisted support from so many community partners for this very special event that raised needed funds to save more animal lives.”

“The sponsorship and underwriting received from our business life-saving partners means that 100% of individual ticket purchases and all money raised through the live and silent auctions at the event go directly to support animal care activities at the animal shelter,” added Hawkins.

“We enlisted support from so many community partners for this very special event that raised needed funds to save more animal lives.” -Sean Hawkins, CAWA, Director at SMVHS

“Our most important annual fundraising event is held at the animal shelter so the community can see first-hand the amazing programs that save the lives of homeless animals every day,” said Hawkins. “We are proud of our Open Paw manners and skills training for shelter pets and our veterinary medical department and we want to create and opportunity to show our supporters their impact first-hand.”

“Pets are our passion at Purina, and we are excited to support the great work that Santa Maria Valley Humane Society does to help local pets find families through providing quality nutrition for the pets in their care and marketing support for their organization,” said Cat Small, Shelter Champions Program Lead for Purina and owner of 3 year-old rescue dog, Mr. Carrot. “When we can work together with innovators in animal welfare like Santa Maria Valley Humane Society to support our collective missions, we can help more pets find forever homes and live longer healthier lives together with people who love them.”

Animals have always been an important part of the Tito’s Handmade Vodka story and the canine counterparts helped shape the company today. “Since the beginning, we’ve been committed to bettering the lives of pets and their families far and wide, says Beth Bellanti, Program Manager, Vodka For Dog People at Tito’s Handmade Vodka.” We’re thrilled to be part of the Paws & Claws Go to the Circus this year”

Give Where You Live is The Towbes Group’s distinctive private/public fundraising program focused on environmental sustainability and community support. “We decided to showcase our partnership with Santa Maria Valley Humane Society this year by supporting the Paws & Claws Go to the Circus event in conjunction with the opening of our Villa del Sol 55+ apartment homes in Santa Maria,” said Jim Carrillo, Vice President, Residential Properties for Towbes. “Our property is near the animal shelter and many of our resident are active volunteers, walking dogs, grooming cats, and helping shelter residents gain confidence around meeting new people. We are committed to overall community improvement and we know that bringing pets and people together is part of that equation!”

The Live Auction: A Smashing Success

The Paws and Claws Go to the Circus volunteer committee members Nancy Doherty, Vonnie Stewart, Tami McKnight, Frances Romero and Linda Fultz were hard at work assembling fantastic items for the Big Top live and silent auctions.

Original acrylic works like “Cowabunga” and “Dog Up” from famed folk artists Connie Townsend, a weekend retreat at Trilogy that includes a luxury home stay and a golf package, and a VIP tour with a wine-paired three-course gourmet Field to Table meal at Presqu’ile Winery were some of the favorite live auction items. Celebrity Auctioneer Jim Glines, who is also Chairman of the Board for Community Bank of Santa Maria, headed the auction committee that included a Santa Maria-style cake auction to kick-off the event.

About Santa Maria Valley Humane Society

The Santa Maria Valley Humane Society exists to rescue, shelter, heal, place, and train dogs and cats while engaging the Central California community to end animal homelessness. Since 1984, the caring staff and volunteers of the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society have placed 13,370 homeless dogs and cats into new and loving homes and our highly-skilled veterinarians have helped and healed an additional 36,712 dogs and cats. Providing shelter for animals in crisis, rescue efforts, and “Pet Food Pantry” for dogs and cats in need helps thousands more animals each year. Our programs are supported entirely by donations from the communities that we serve.

For more information about the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society, visit

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