Santa Paws volunteers

A Girl Scout troop stands in front of the bunny bard at the Long Beach Animal Care Services during last year’s Santa Paws event.

For a person who loves dogs so much — he was the guiding force behind starting the largest dog beach in Los Angeles County right here in Long Beach — you would think Justin Rudd had dogs as pets growing up in Ozark, Alabama.

Wrong.

“I grew up with horses,” Rudd said. “We had several dogs — mutts, really — that would wander up onto our property. But we never had an indoor dog. It wasn’t for us.”

Rudd said the dogs that came around slept outdoors or in the barn in the hay. Even on cold nights or wet days.

“Of course, we didn’t know what spay and neuter meant, either,” he said. “Now, I wouldn’t ever dream of my bulldog not sleeping in my bed.”

But Rudd, who got his first indoor dog Rosie when he moved to the city in 1997, is all about dogs nowadays, what with his Haute Dog events. And so for the 18th year, Rudd’s nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT) will sponsor Santa Paws, an event that allows people to donate new toys, treats, cleaning supplies, food or money to support local shelters and rescues. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, Dec. 21.

Santa Paws v

A dog housed at the Seal Beach Animal Care Center awaits a gift from the Santa Paws event last year.

Rudd’s event has even gone national.

“I asked people online to start collections in their cities,” he said. “People all over the country will be doing it, not necessarily on Dec. 21. “\What started in Long Beach and Seal Beach has now grown to around 26 states that I am aware of. And each of those states has multiple cities participating.”

Rudd said people don’t have to bring a massive number of items to the event, and they don’t have to bring the goods on the day of the event.

“Even one or two things is better than nothing at all,” he said. “We will take whatever you bring. If one shelter doesn’t use the particular food you bring, another shelter will accept it. And don’t worry about getting your things to the drop-off location on Dec. 21. Take it to the location any time that you can and a volunteer will take it from you.”

Cindi Rogan has been a CAT volunteer for four years and is appreciative of the Santa Paws campaign.

“Knowing he does this Santa Paws project for the animals and knowing I can help bring a little comfort or joy to an animal that is lonely and scared at the shelter makes me happy and something that me and my kids want to be a part of,” Rogan said. “It makes me feel good to help Justin accomplish his goals. Now I don’t have to start my own nonprofit.”

Rudd is always looking for volunteers at his events, so if you want to help, simply arrive a few minutes early to meet him — he will be dressed as Santa Paws — in the parking lot.

Rudd will be accepting donations at four times and locations:

Noon — Long Beach Animal Care Services, 7700 E. Spring St., 562-570-7387

12:15 p.m. — Long Beach spcaLA, 7700 E. Spring St., 562-570-7722

1:30 p.m. — Seal Beach Animal Care Center, 1700 Adolfo Lopez Drive, 562-430-4993

3 p.m. — Orange County Animal Care Services, 1630 Victory Road, Tustin, 714-935-6848

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