Debbie Vander Zwaag & Bill Johanson
Debbie Vander Zwaag and Bill Johanson were first introduced to Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) back in 1999 when they adopted a beautiful tuxedo kitty named Sophia. The cat is now 18 years old and the couple has added another cat (K-2) and two dogs (Lucky and Bear) to the family. Sophia and Bear were both adopted from HSSV.
As animal lovers and engaged members of the local community, Debbie and Bill decided they wanted to do more than adopt homeless animals from area shelters; they wanted to find a way to help stop animal homelessness while also supporting the existing shelter animal population with compassion and care.
Choosing Which Local Group to Support
“We did a lot of research on animal advocacy organizations around the Bay Area because we wanted to have an impact locally,” Debbie shares, “HSSV quickly rose to the top of the list of organizations we wanted to support.” She joined the HSSV Board of Directors in August 2014 and also serves on the HSSV Fur Ball Gala committee; she co-chaired the Fur Ball in 2016.
Funding an End to Animal Homelessness
At the end of 2013, the couple pledged $50,000 to HSSV’s P.U.P. (Prevent Unwanted Pregnancies) Program. The program arranges to take in the puppies and kittens of unexpected litters in exchange for spaying the mom and neutering the dad (if he is known). P.U.P. Program goals include:
- Increasing spay/neuter surgeries to at least 10,000 annually
- Increasing targeted no-cost or low-cost surgeries from 44% to 65%
- Boosting the annual reduction in unwanted births to 16,500 or more
- Support and educate community members about the benefits of spay/neuter
“While we love all the work HSSV does to help existing homeless pets in our community,” says Debbie, “the efforts to help prevent the homeless pet population from growing are really exciting to us. We are so inspired by the vision for the future where every pet has a home, and we can only achieve that through a comprehensive approach that includes prevention along with compassionate care for existing homeless pets.”
Bill and Debbie with their beloved dogs, Lucky and Bear.