Pooch Playoffs brings the animal-loving community together to support pet families in need

Local pups put their best paw forward and helped raise funds for pet families in need during the 2024 Pooch Playoffs in Santa Barbara County.

Photographer Valerie Villa just completed Santa Barbara County’s 4th Annual Pooch Playoffs, with proceeds benefiting local nonprofit C.A.R.E.4Paws and the adorable Ed emerging as the 2024 playoff champion. The March Madness–style event involved the community both in voting for the favorite pooch contestant and with dozens of local businesses providing swag bags and prizes for those participating. The contest raised more than $1,600, which is a new record.

“As a photographer, families always tell me about their pets, but when it comes to their family sessions, they often leave them at home thinking it would be easier,” says Valerie Villa, owner of Images by Valerie Photography. “Pooch Playoffs is a way to celebrate our canine companions by having a photo session with them, while donating to an amazing cause. C.A.R.E.4Paws is a great organization that does so much for the community.”

This was Villa’s fourth year putting on this fundraiser that she created after she learned of a group of like-minded photographers hosting their own Pooch Playoffs throughout the United States and Canada. In the Pooch Playoffs competition model, Villa photographed 16 local dogs (with session fees being donated to C.A.R.E.4Paws) and organized an online voting bracket that lined up with the NCAA Basketball March Madness Tournament to determine Santa Barbara County’s “ulti-mutt cutie.”

During a span of 10 days, close to 1,000 votes were cast on the Images by Valerie website to select the cutest canine. Ultimately, it was Ed who took first prize. Ed was adopted by Kim de Clercq and her family in 2022, after his original owner found himself unable to keep him due to a housing issue. Ed was at risk of ending up in a shelter, but Lompoc nonprofit Shadow’s Fund stepped in to find him a new home, which is how he met the Clercq family. Ed proved to be the perfect companion the Clercq’s dog Evie, who placed second in the Pooch Playoffs this year. A DNA test shows that Ed is 60% American Pit Bull Terrier, 30% chihuahua and 10% super mutt, but Kim refers to him as a “chihuabull.”

Altogether, the photographers participating in Pooch Playoffs nationwide raised $69,370 for their selected animal-related charities.

“We can create amazing change in our community if we all work together, and this is truly one of those moments I am proud to be a part of,” says Villa. “I look forward to working with C.A.R.E.4Paws again next year and making Pooch Playoffs better yet!”

The C.A.R.E.4Paws team shares that sentiment: “All of us at C.A.R.E.4Paws express our deepest appreciation to Valerie and the Pooch Playoffs participants,” said Julia Black, marketing, volunteer and community programs manager for C.A.R.E.4Paws. “We are grateful for the generous donation and compassion for the pet families we support.”

For more information about the Pooch Playoffs, visit imagesbyvalerie.com/pooch-playoffs.
To learn more about C.A.R.E.4Paws and its programs, visit care4paws.org.

About Images by Valerie
Images by Valerie is a boutique natural light photographer specializing in family photography with a special love working with maternity and children here in Santa Barbara, California. My love for photography is driven by my passion to beautifully capture families’ everyday moments and create archival memories to pass on for the future generations. After 20+ years in sports medicine, traveling around the county and sometime internationally with athletic teams, I realized I was missing moments in my young family’s life. I also realized that my family albums passed on to me were focused on the kids with a sprinkling of mom…and the one being created of my own family were missing me. I realized that as a mom, or parent, you are either behind the camera or phone taking all the pictures or are too self-conscious to come out from behind it. It’s an easy excuse to become invisible in your child’s story. I redirected my path to be there for my family but also to capture these moments not only for me but for others. Learn more at imagesbyvalerie.com.

About C.A.R.E.4Paws
C.A.R.E.4Paws—short for Community Awareness, Responsibility & Education—works to reduce pet overpopulation, keep animals out of shelters and improve quality of life for pet families in need. Its critical services include free and low-cost spays/neuters, veterinary care and vaccine events in C.A.R.E.4Paws’ own mobile veterinary clinics; distribution of pet food and supplies; support for pet families exposed to domestic violence through Safe Haven; Paws Up For Pets humane education; and Pet Emergency Training (P.E.T.) for First Responders. Since 2009, C.A.R.E.4Paws has worked in Santa Barbara County and, in 2022, the nonprofit expanded its mobile clinic services to San Luis Obispo County. To learn more or to make a contribution,
visit care4paws.org.


Written by care4paws

C.A.R.E.4Paws works to reduce pet overpopulation, keep animals out of shelters and improve quality of life for pet families in need. Since 2009, we have provided a range of critical pet wellness services to community members in underserved areas to ensure animals don’t suffer or end up in a shelter due to lack of resources and access to proper pet care. We assist more than 20,000 pet families in need annually! Learn more at https://care4paws.org/

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