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Furry friends find hope, help through Astro

For nearly 10 years, the ASTRO Foundation – Animal Shelter To Riverbank and Oakdale – was run strictly as a foster-based organization. Dogs and cats in need of new homes were first placed with foster families as the search was conducted for a forever home.

A welcoming place for cats, dogs and animal lovers, the ASTRO Foundation has a center on North Fifth Avenue in Oakdale and a fundraising thrift store on East E Street.
The organization started in 2012 as that foster-based group but behind the scenes, dedicated volunteers were working toward having a brick and mortar location. That came to fruition in late 2021 and the group hosted a formal grand opening of their ASTRO Foundation Adoption Center in May of 2022. ASTRO Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) animal welfare organization.

Now more than a year in operation at the physical location of 157 North Fifth Avenue, Oakdale, Director of Adoption Services Megan Scoullar said while many things have changed over the years, the mission remains the same. Placing animals in need with owners who can care for and love them.

Helping to place animals in need of homes, the ASTRO Foundation center on North Fifth Avenue in Oakdale encompasses 1,440 square feet.
Scoullar said they also worked previously with an adoption bus, a well-known rolling shelter where they would host pet adoption events at PetCo in Riverbank for many years.

ASTRO Board President Jaydeen Vicente also had a makeshift shelter at her home for many years but now the animals – and volunteers – have a place to call their own.

The 1,440-square foot center has a main lobby, a community cat room, plenty of space for the animals to exercise and an area for prospective adopters to meet with the animals for a visit.

“A big part of the goal was to create a center with a central location,” Scoullar said of establishing the adoption center in Oakdale. “We can house up to 40 cats and kittens and we do have an occasional small dog or two on site but we try to keep our dogs in foster care.”

One of the rooms at the ASTRO Foundation center in Oakdale is dedicated to the cats; many have moved on from the center to new forever homes.
The center is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and while they are located in Oakdale and take in dogs and cats primarily from the Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon areas, Scoullar said they are more than happy to welcome in adoptive families from throughout the 209 and beyond. In fact, she said some pets have been placed as far away as the Bay area, though most stay within or close to the 209 region.

“Everyone is welcome to come in and check out the animals, our volunteers are there to assist,” she noted.

The cats and kittens can be seen any time; since many of the dogs are with foster parents, it’s best to call ahead and schedule a time to meet them.

Scoullar started working with animals in a volunteer capacity at the Humane Society of Tuolumne County, which eventually evolved in to a paid position. She joined ASTRO in 2021, when they were looking for a director for their new center endeavor.

Many of their pets come from the Oakdale Animal Shelter, those that would likely face euthanasia as their ‘time’ at the local shelter has run out. But ASTRO’s goal is to take on those animals and find them new homes so they can go on to a happy life. Some are also special needs and ASTRO works with local veterinarians to provide the care and services needed for all animals.

The nearby ASTRO Thrift and Gift Store, with proceeds going to support the center, is at 250 East E Street in Oakdale and features a variety of home goods, décor and more.

“It’s high quality stuff at incredible prices,” Scoullar said, with the store also open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

All of the work takes plenty of volunteers and Scoullar said the large group helps make everything happen, from cleaning the cat cages to greeting the public, working the cash register at the thrift store to stocking the shelves.

Many also still help at adoption events hosted in conjunction with PetCo.

“We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without our volunteers and donors,” Scoullar noted of keeping the center doors open.

Those interested in learning more about the ASTRO Foundation and opportunities to volunteer, donate or adopt, can contact them at 209-604-2649.

“It’s super fulfilling the amount of animals we’re able to help,” Scoullar said.