HART is a volunteer service organization and no-kill shelter with a threefold mission:

  1. Rescuing and caring for kittens and cats in need;
  2. Placing cats and kittens in caring, permanent homes; and
  3. Reducing feline overpopulation with an active spay/neuter program for HART’s felines and a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program for feral cats.


HART is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (Federal ID 77-0018508) established in February 1983.



We are committed to ensuring quality of life to all living creatures, both feral and domestic.



Founded in 1983, HART began with a small core of volunteers who fostered animals in their own homes. In 2000, the group rented a former veterinarian’s office and consolidated its rescue operations, allowing the organization to expand its services to the greater Cambria community. HART purchased the current shelter, located at 2638 Main Street, in 2012.



To take a video tour of our facility and meet some of our residents click on the video below.


HART is a local animal rescue organization that serves the communities of Cambria, San Simeon, and Harmony in San Luis Obispo (SLO) county.  While we currently focus on felines, we will assist with any animal in need.


  • Rescue and Adoption:
    During its three-plus decades, HART has placed thousands of homeless animals in permanent homes through adoption and foster programs. Our group of dedicated volunteers, the Homeless Animal Rescue Team, focuses on two primary goals: 1) ensuring the well-being of the animals we rescue and care for; and 2) placing them in permanent, caring homes.
  • Spay/Neuter and Microchip: All cats taken in by HART are spayed or neutered, a major component in reducing the local pet overpopulation and attendant euthanasia rates. Microchipping facilitates return-to-owner successes for lost animals and decreases the number of stray, homeless animals.
  • Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR): HART is committed to continuing its success in reducing the number of local feral cats. Trapped animals are spayed or neutered and returned to their colonies, where they receive compassionate care as declining birth rates gradually decrease their numbers.
  • Seniors for Seniors: Senior people, 62 years or older, and senior cats, eight years or older, often make perfect companions. This adoption program matches senior citizens with senior "kitizens" and offers a no-fee bonus.
  • Guardian Angel Program: GA provides additional funds for non-routine medical expenses for HART’s felines. GA is a restricted fund limited exclusively to covering medical costs. The GA program saves lives, ensures that cats and kittens are healthy and pain free, and improves their chances of finding good homes.
  • Surrendering a Pet: We understand that giving up your pet cat or kitten can be a difficult decision. Our staff and volunteers at HART are here to help. If you are a local resident and have determined that you must surrender your cat or kitten, please call or email HART to request an appointment to discuss your options. While we cannot guarantee we will be able to accept your pet, we will do our best to assist you. HART asks for a minimal, relinquishment donation of $50.




Michael Zarowitz, President

A California native, Michael graduated with degrees in economics, finance, genetics, and a doctorate in molecular biology. During his work as a biomedical research scientist, he acquired several patents. Since moving to the central coast he has been an adjunct faculty member at Cal Poly and is currently a volunteer science teacher at Coast Union High School.


Michael became involved with HART through his partner, Mary Ann Zirretta. Playfully describing himself as a 25-year "on-call grunt,” Michael is a long-standing volunteer and creative fundraiser. Along with Carol Jean Attoe, he organized HART's award-winning Pinedorado Parade floats.

Michael currently lives in Cambria with his dog Shiloh.



Gary Swauger, Treasurer

Gary grew up in Torrance, CA. After studying architecture at Cal Poly, he moved to Cambria with his wife, Susan, two cats, and a dog. Since then, Gary has designed over 400 homes, motels, restaurants, and other commercial buildings.


Beginning his association with HART at the first shelter location, Gary worked on permit requirements, software development, and updating computer equipment. He helped orchestrate the purchase of HART's current building and was the lead on designing tenant improvements necessary to transform an old single family residence into an animal shelter. As Board treasurer, he continues to pursue and evaluate various approaches that will keep HART on solid financial ground.


Currently, Gary and Susan care for Stuart and Snow, two former HART cats and a standard black poodle named Pal


Julie Jenkins, Secretary

Julie was raised in Ohio. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is a certified life coach. While technical theatre was her early career choice, she eventually moved to Los Angeles where she worked at the studios until she retired from the industry in 2014.


Moving to Cambria in 2015, Julie began volunteering with HART soon after and describes herself as “the new kid on the block.” She serves on the Meds Team and regularly furnishes a lap for any feline in search of loving attention. In addition to fostering post-surgery cats, Julie offers compassionate hospice care for those cats experiencing end-of-life challenges. Julie, is a proud member of the ‘Fosters Failure Club’ with 4 fosters that are now permanent members of her household. She considers it a privilege to contribute to the wonderful work done by all those who sustain HART.


Carol Jean Attoe, Board Member

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Carol Jean has lived most of her adult life in California. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, taught physical education at Sacramento CC, and volunteered at the SPCA. After retiring from teaching, she turned her attention to ceramic arts. For over 30 years, her work has been grounded in the natural world and inspired by animals and nature.


During her years at HART, Carol Jean has been a cleaner, transporter, and events volunteer, while her Love Paws fundraisers have enhanced the shelter’s coffers. Her precious cats, Shadow and Silver, are HART alumni.


Of her commitment to HART, Carol Jean says, “It is my hope that we can raise awareness of the animal/human bond and bring love and peace to all livings things.”


Leah Cox, Board Member

Leah and husband Kerry moved to Cambria 2 1/2 yrs ago from the Santa Monica mountains near Lake Sherwood. Before their moving boxes were unpacked Leah was doing TNR for HART. She is our Head Trapper and appreciates any help you can give with trapping situations. Leah has volunteered with county animal shelters and private rescue groups for over 25 yrs, fostering 100’s of kittens, before opening her own Rescue in 2011. Leah is also a member of the ‘Foster Failure Club’ with 2 HART cats plus several feral cats she brought with her from SoCal. HART is delighted to have her decades of cat rescue experience.




Kellie Priebe, General Manager

Kellie became HART's General Manager in October 2018.  A southern California native, Kellie grew up in the high desert and moved to the central coast to attend college. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in Film and Media Studies in 2009. Kellie has always had a love for animals and began volunteering at HART in February of 2018.


Kellie quickly realized that she was falling in love with all of the cats and would take them all home if she could, but she has settled for opening up her home to foster. She’s currently fostering 2 special needs senior cats. Her favorite parts about working at HART are the friendly and compassionate people she has met and the difference she makes in the lives of animals daily.



Evelyn Zanella, Medical Director

Managing the healthcare needs of HART’s felines is more than a full-time job— which makes Evelyn, the shelter’s full-time medical director, an extremely busy person. Her many duties include: performing in-take exams, scheduling veterinary visits and surgeries, supervising medical and dietary regimens, overseeing newborns, updating medical records, and dispensing TLC. Because health needs do not necessarily comply with working schedules, Evelyn’s level of dedication means that she often arrives early and stays late.


As we watch her protectively cuddle an infant kitten during an important, unavoidable meeting, Evelyn’s devotion to her charges is unmistakable. HART cannot overstate its appreciation for her tireless dedication and for her expertise that provides quality healthcare for our cats and kittens. Evelyn is a proud member of the Foster Failure Club with 4 fosters now permanent members of her household.


Brittany Donecho,

Registered Veterinary Technician

& Foster Coordinator

Brittany graduated from Foothill College's Veterinary Technology program in 2012. Since obtaining her CA state and National licenses, she has worked in many areas of veterinary medicine including, general practice, emergency, shelter, physical rehabilitation and dentistry. Brittany began working at HART in December 2018 and quickly got started on creating a Fear Free Initiative in order to reduce the fear, anxiety and stress of HART's shelter residents. Shortly after she took on the role of Foster Coordinator and created HART's highly successful Foster Club. During its first year, the Foster Club had 23 fosters from all over the central coast fostering a total of 85 adult cats and kittens. In 2020, she will lead HART staff and volunteers in completing Jackson Galaxy's Cat Pawsitive Program. This program helps shelter residents find and maintain their mojo using a trained set of behaviors and skills, which in turn, helps them to become highly adoptable.


Brittany and her husband moved to the central coast from the Bay Area in 2017 before the arrival of their baby girl. They have two dogs, Vincent and Scramble, and Pixel, their orange tabby.




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