A Visit to Two Animal Rescue Centers

Dawn (9 of 14)3

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit two animal rescue centers here in the bay area with Dawn, who helps support them. We visited both the International Bird Rescue Center in the East Bay and The Marine Mammal Center just north of San Francisco. It was such an interesting and rewarding experience to see all the amazing work that they do for these animals every day (and most are volunteers!).

Here are some photos from our day if you’d like to see…

Dawn (4 of 14)

First, the history behind Dawn’s involvement in animal rescue is super interesting: in 1971 there was a large oil spill in San Francisco and a local resident Alice Berkner was determined to help. She ran into a grocery store and bought what she could find: Dawn dish soap. Alice founded the International Bird Rescue and Dawn ended up being the soap of choice for oil spill cleanup from that day forward. You can read more about the founding story here.

Even decades later, agencies have done many more tests to see what works best for oil spill cleanup with the same result: Dawn’s still the winner, cutting oil faster and better than any other and so that’s what they continue to use and won’t allow substitutes. A few years ago the Dawn Wildlife campaign was born: with the nonprofits choosing the brand, and not the other way around. Dawn now provides product and financial support to these animal rescue centers nationwide.

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Our first stop was the International Bird Rescue Center in the East Bay.  This is where water birds are rehabilitated from oil spills, some kind of illness, or baby birds that are lost (like the poor pide billed grebe above). This center has a team that travels all over the world to help out at oil spills and train local volunteers. They can house up to 500 water birds at the facility here, and then after they’re rehabilitated and released they continue to track them to see how they do assimilating back into the wild.

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This is Dr Becky above. She used to make jewelry, and then went back to school to become a vet. Here at IBR she works repairing lots of bird wounds and fractures from falls or human interference.

Something interesting we learned is that they have to be very careful or the birds will become emotionally attached to the center employees. Because of this, they don’t feed them directly. They wear a mask or use a hand puppet. They don’t want them to be released and then feel too aggressive or comfortable around humans which might not be safe.

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The center manager here is showing us what oil does to a bird’s feathers (essentially it loses it’s ability to repel water), and how the use Dawn to clean it.

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This little chick was so sweet!

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Next, we went to the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands. It’s right at Rodeo beach and has gorgeous sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. The largest marine mammal center in the world, it rescues 600-800 seal lions, elephant seals, and harbor seals a year from locations all up and down coast of California. Essentially it’s a marine mammal hospital that rehabilitates the sick and malnourished animals (eating 500 lbs of fish a day!) until they’re able to be released.  It’s open to the public too! We stumbled upon it one day a couple years back and the kids loved it.

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With only 60 full time staff, the entire facility is mostly run by volunteers. More than 1200 volunteers from teenagers to retired men and women from all around the bay area. They help in assisting vets by give medication and treating wounds, making fish milkshakes for those that aren’t eating yet on their own yet, to cleaning with Dawn and sterilizing equipment. The Marine Mammal Center is completely funded by donations. It’s was so inspiring to see so many people giving of their time and money to this fantastic animal rescue facility.

Dawn (14 of 14)

Such a wonderful and inspiring day, thanks Dawn for inviting me to come along!

Thanks to Dawn for sponsoring this post and helping support such worthy causes. 


Thank you for sharing this! They’re doing such great work, and it’s always so nice to hear about people who want to make the world a bit better – especially where animals are involved. I’d love to find somewhere similar close to me and help out

– Natalie

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