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Suzan Filipek
Edition: 8/1/2008

SAVING GRACE’S Candace Modrell, Kaye Erickson, Polly LePorte and Nelia Southwick and junior members Isabelle LePorte and Cassandra Southwick with some of their rescues.

A team of five local women has taken on the monumental task of rescuing abandoned animals, with assistance from their patron of the year Kaye Erickson. Thanks to the greatgrandmother, about 70 cats have found homes since she came on board Saving Grace, a rescue group, six months ago. “I felt sorry for them,” the longtime resident says of the felines she has helped foster at her June St. home.

“She so generously has given us her space to save lives, we are forever indebted,” said Polly LePorte, the group's founder.

Kaye became an animal advocate inadvertently, she said, after calling Polly about a dog featured in the Pet of the Month column in the Larchmont Chronicle. The dog didn’t work out, but Polly didn’t hesitate: “So then, Kaye, how about some cats?” she asked.

“Any port in the storm,” smiles Kaye, in her backyard recently, with Annabelle, one of the cats she kept for her own.

LePorte ran a one-woman rescue operation called Animal Angels out of her Windsor Square home for 15 years. The mother and actress was on the verge of burn out, when she was rescued herself. “Having all of these wonderful people in my life makes [the work] more of a pleasure,” Polly said.

Board member Candace Modrell, of Lucerne Blvd., called Polly after she noticed a neglected dog in her neighborhood. Polly coaxed her to gently ask the owners if they wanted the dog. Turns out they were happy to give the dog to Candace, who had him neutered, got him shots and fostered him until a home was found.

“Dogs are pack animals. You can’t just neglect them,” said Modrell, who also runs a canine playdate business.

Board member Nelia Southwick, a Park LaBrea mom, first talked to Polly when seeking help in trapping a stray. “Everyone is so quick to say ‘they aren’t MY cats,’” said Polly, that when Southwick offered to trap the cat and take it to the vet herself, she was shocked.

The comic of the group, Southwick is credited with keeping spirits high amidst trips to the shelter and mounting vet bills.

Spring and summer are traditionally kitten season, which explains why the group has about 50 felines for adoption. The women take shifts during the weekends showcasing about 10 purring animals on Larchmont Blvd. Plans call to expand fundraising efforts to pay for the $1,200-monthly kibble and litter and other fees, such as the $40 charge to take a cat from the pound that was set to be put to sleep.
“It’s unbelievable,” says Polly.

While vets at Laurel Pet Hospital and Dr. Reina at L.A. Medical Clinic donate some check ups, treatments for respiratory and other ailments, usually caught in the pound, are charged.

Getting non-profit status with the volunteer help of attorney Maria Hoye of Latham and Watkins has helped focus the group. But there are still an overwhelming number of rescues and too little money.

“These girls really do work hard,” says Kaye. Before the weekend adoptions, “they brush and clip [the cats’] nails and all kinds of nice things. They’re very dedicated and always short of money.”

“If people have any compassion for animals, they need to step up, go to the pound, adopt from us, or donate to us,” says Polly. “We need help… they are killing buckets full of beautiful animals everyday (at the city shelters.) It is a grief that can’t be spoken.”

To foster or to make a donation, please call Saving Grace LA, 323-871-8538. Dog walking services are also being offered to raise funds.