The following article appeared in the Desert Sun Monday, July 5th from an interview with James Folmer
Monday Newsmaker: Al Vasquez brings a broad range of experience to Animal Samaritans
Al Vasquez has recently been appointed board chairman of Animal Samaritans in Thousand Palms.
He also is CEO and founder of Hispanic Image Marketing Network and California Hispanic Media Inc. Along with his wife, Ana Rascon Vasquez, he is co-publisher of the local bilingual, weekly newspaper La Prensa Hispana.
Vasquez founded the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce-Coachella Valley headquartered in Indio.
Working with the U.S. Department of Labor, he established 16 nonprofit corporations across the country dedicated to employment training and job placement.
Has discussed Latino issues with presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, both Bushes and many other officials.
He served on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s transition team in 2003-04
In 2000, Vasquez founded the International Hispanic Film Festival.
He also produces the annual “Sol Azteca” International Hispanic Awards, now in its 14th year.
Vasquez, 69, served in the Marines from 1958 to 1965.
His 94-year-old mother still lives in her original home in Palm Desert. He has six siblings and eight grown children, plus Chihuahuas who do not want to leave home.
Question: You have recently been elected president of the board of Animal Samaritans. How did you get involved in the organization?
Answer: I became involved with Animal Samaritans more than 20 years ago as a client. I took my rescued pets to the previous facility on Ramon Road in Thousand Palms for vaccinations and medical needs. Throughout the years, I’ve had several dogs and cats treated there.
Animal Samaritans recently added a program to transport dogs and cats from Coachella to the clinic in Thousand Palms to be spayed or neutered. What has been the response?
The response we have been receiving in the east valley is indicative of the great need. The first time we scheduled east valley services, we were met with 346 dogs and cats. The second time, we had 442 and the third time 211.
This has convinced us we need to structure a routine whereby our fully equipped animal transporter can schedule pick up and deliveries to and from our new clinic next to the county facilities in Thousand Palms, on a regular basis.
As any new service or product, we must forge ties with community organizations who will inform the public of our new service availability for the east valley. We have bilingual staff and have set up a board committee to explore ties and central pick up locations to accommodate underserved areas.
You have Chihuahuas. Tell us about them.
In my lifetime, I have had numerous breeds and have enjoyed all of them. Ten years ago, I became fascinated with the distinct character of a Chihuahua. I have a family of Chihuahuas, the father, the mother and the kids. None of them know they are dogs and the father Chihuahua “guapango” rules the roost like a Doberman.
I have had several Dobermans’ in the past. We do not have an empty nest syndrome at home. They have their own room and yard space. They can tell time and always let us know when they think we stayed out too late. They are very loyal, loving and a surprisingly strong, healthy breed.
You served as the economic developer for the U.S. Department of Commerce. With that background, tell us what to expect in the economy for the test of the year.
Unfortunately, the economy is ruled by many factors including political decisions made in the past and being made in the present. This establishes a “consumer confidence index” which is at an all time low.
In the past 30 days we have seen an uptick of consumer spending, a personal increase of $7 a day. While this sounds encouraging, this does not take into account the 15 million workers still out of work.
Consumers are bracing for a possible double dip recession and businesses are hedging their bets on hiring. This flux is reflected in part by the daily ups and downs of the Dow.
Here in the Coachella Valley, growing cities such as Indio are experiencing a slight increase of building permits. We will not know if this is a trend or a blip for three to four months.
The economy is like a plant, it grows from the ground up. Government can fertilize the plant with incentives to the economic driving force of America, small business. Unfortunately, small businesses are experiencing too much government trimming and no fertilization.
As consumers we have noticed the plant that feeds us is wilting and are starting to doubt the trimmers know what they are doing. A slow, frustrating recovery, employment recuperation to 2007 levels will take 10 years.
What are your goals for Animal Samaritans?
Animal Samaritans has grown successfully since 1978. Founder Barbara Flanagan is an active member of the board. With the able leadership of Fred Sanders as the executive director, Animal Samaritans can give credit to many years of great stewardship. The completion of the new state-of-the-art clinic led by William Blue, three full-time highly experienced veterinarians and a host of techs, our mission is to continue to serve the animal populations around us.
We are making great efforts to meet the challenges of today’s’ world where many animals are abandoned as owners leave to seek employment elsewhere. We serve as a “no-kill” animal rescue for cats and dogs and will continue to do so. We are reaching out to underserved areas and continue to concentrate on spay and neuter to reduce the incidence of unwanted pets.
We have had great success in this area and now offer state of the art diagnostics, X-ray, surgery, dental, micro-chips, a wellness program, orthopedics, second opinions, vaccinations and a variety of pet health services all at an affordable cost. Animal Samaritans will continue to look for opportunities to help our best friends, expanding our times and area of service.