North Philadelphia girls start no-kill animal shelter

Monday, May 21, 2012
, Shirleen Allicot
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Two young girls from North Philadelphia are helping homeless animals stay alive.

With their concern and their parents support the girls created their own no-kill animal shelter, and they need the community's support to keep the shelter going.

At only 11 and 14 years old, Ava and Lexie Gutierrez have already accomplished a lot.

"We rescue dogs from other shelters before they're about to be euthanized," Lexie told Action News.

The girls started their own no-kill shelter in Northern Liberties after witnessing the conditions of shelters in and around the area.

"We were devastated to see all the dogs and cats in the corner of their cages, alone and scared," said Ava.

"Ava and I wanted to volunteer to help out," said Lexie. "We were like, 'Hey can we help these dogs in any way?' And they said, 'No, sorry, you're too young.'"

The sisters didn't take 'no' for an answer. Determined to help homeless animals, they held fundraisers, and eventually, with the help of their parents, started Operation Ava in 2010.

"Here we have a great facility. You'll find that it's quite different from other facilities," said Ava.

They make sure the dogs and cats are in clean, comfortable rooms, not cages. And there's also place where the animals can run and play and just be free.

In less than two years, Operation Ava has already helped 1400 dogs and cats find homes.

"We need a lot of donations," said Lexie. "Or we try to get kids to go to their schools or just walk around raising money so they can donate to Operation Ava."

This Thursday at Shampoo nightclub, the girls are hoping people will come out and support Operation Ava. They say all of the money will go straight to helping the animals.

"Volunteering, raising money, anything that can help save a life," said Ava. "Even adopting a dog from a shelter and not buying one from a pet store. Even the smallest things really do make a difference."




Operation Ava started when two sisters, then 9-year-old Ava and 12-year-old Lexie Gutierrez visited an animal shelter in 2009. During their visit, they were touched by the large number of sick, homeless and unwanted animals at the shelter. They felt compelled to help and asked if they could volunteer. The shelter turned them away and told them they were too young to help. They didn't take 'no' for an answer.

The girls began selling cookies in dog parks to like-minded animal lovers and raised money to help homeless animals. They began to take on urgent rescue situations so that animals in danger of being euthanized could be given a second chance at happiness. Later, they approached their mother and said they would like to do more and their mother helped them establish Operation Ava in 2010.

Since then, the organization has grown and now boasts one of the largest no-kill animal shelters in Philadelphia. It is located at 858 N. 3rd Street and the organization has saved the lives of and found homes for over 1,200 animals.

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