Upcoming Bags & Baubles fundraiser helps prevent pet ‘economic euthanasia’

By Kelley Carlson

The annual Bags & Baubles fundraiser is an opportunity for FACE to shine.

Scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. on April 29 at a private estate in Rancho Santa Fe, the second annual event is one of the Foundation for Animal Care and Education’s premier affairs. About 250 guests are expected to attend, according to FACE Executive Director Stacy Steel.

The nonprofit FACE was established in 2006 by a group of veterinarians who were distraught over the rise of “economic euthanasia,” in which pets are left to suffer or are euthanized when their owners can’t afford the cost of treatment. FACE provides financial assistance to animal owners, with money raised through donations and special events such as Bags & Baubles.

At the upcoming fundraiser, there will be a silent auction of more than 200 new and “gently loved” designer handbags; starting bids will begin at 10 percent to 15 percent of retail value.

“The deals people are able to get on handbags are extraordinary,” Steel said.

In addition, there will be opportunities to purchase jewelry, while guests socialize with one another and consume food and beverages.

A high-end raffle is also planned, featuring items such as a Nancy Gonzalez purse, a Kazanjian Bros. wooden cuff with South Sea pearls and diamonds, an 18-carat white gold blue topaz necklace by Yael Designs, and a sterling silver beaded bracelet with an 18-carat yellow gold dog charm from Dodo. Tickets are three for $25 or 15 for $100.

Lulu, a dachshund who is one of FACE’s success stories, is expected to make an appearance. The “girly” dog loves to dress up and will have three to four changes of clothes, Steel said.

About 470 animals have been saved by FACE since its inception. One recent case involved a 3-year-old French bulldog named King.

On Christmas Eve, King was running and playing at a dog park when he injured his back. His owner, Bernie, immediately took him to a veterinarian, where he was given a steroid injection.

After two months of bed rest, King was on the road to recovery, but he suffered a setback when a loud noise startled him and caused him to jump. Once again, the canine was in pain, and the paralysis in his back legs returned. The steroid shot didn’t work the second time around, and surgery was required.

Bernie was presented with a financial challenge. Once a manager for after-school programs, he was laid off because of budget cuts, and had to move in with his parents, who were on a fixed income. Bernie was unable to afford the entire cost of King’s surgery.

However, FACE came to Bernie and King’s aid, and helped defray the costs of the procedure. King underwent the surgery on March 15, and the prognosis was positive: The doctors said he would have the ability to walk again.

Steel had the opportunity to visit King the day after his surgery. A big bandage covered the length of his spine, but there was comfort in knowing it was only temporary.

“He’s adorable,” Steel said.

Headquartered in Sorrento Valley, FACE is the largest organization of its kind in San Diego County, Steel said. It provides part and full financial assistance for family pets in need of critical or emergency care, and is affiliated with 67 hospitals in the area.

Pet owners in need can call FACE at (858) 450-3223, and fill out a one-page application that can be obtained through the nonprofit’s Web site,


“We respond very quickly,” Steel said.

The nonprofit obtains paperwork from the veterinarian, and requests proof of financial hardship from the owner. Turnaround can be as short as one hour, and normally occurs within 24 hours, depending on the nature of the emergency, according to Steel.

Unfortunately, cases are on the rise, she added.

“There’s definitely been an increased demand over the years for our assistance, as families in our community continue to struggle in this economy,” Steel said.

It’s the reason FACE needs financial support from the community, in the form of donations, she explained.

“The generosity of individual donors provide the resources we need to fund these life-saving procedures,” Steel said.

FACE has provided more than $743,000 in assistance since August 2007, when the nonprofit issued its first grant. The average case costs the foundation $1,500. Funding for FACE is primarily provided by individual pet owners, with additional contributions from hospital partnerships. Special fundraising events are held throughout the year, such as Bags & Baubles.

More than $50,000 was raised during Bags & Baubles last year; this year’s goal is $83,500, Steel said. Meanwhile, FACE is still seeking sponsors and handbag donations, which are tax-deductible.

Admission to Bags & Baubles is free; the location is provided with an RSVP. Call Brooke Haggerty at (858) 450-3223, or go to

For more information about FACE; volunteer opportunities, such as office, marketing, public relations and fundraising; or to donate, visit the organization’s Web site.

“We’re a small nonprofit with great big dreams and big goals,” Steel said.