‘Gimme Shelter,’ Book of Celebs and Four-Legged Pals, Benefits Pet Orphans Charity at ChristmasTime

Pet Orphans Adorable Photos to Adopt Out Animals


Suzanne Allison Witkin, accomplished rock photographer, lives a double-life as animal advocate and president of the charity Pet Orphans. In time for the holidays, she produced a gorgeous hardbound book of photographs of animals and their human owners called Gimme Shelter. California Rocker asked Suzanne the important questions.

California Rocker: How did you get the idea to take photos of pets to help them get adopted?  

Suzanne Allison Witkin: Four years ago I started volunteering at Pet Orphans of Southern California. I brought my camera and took a few photos and shared them on social media and noticed that it helped the dog or cat look better, healthier and made adopters get a real sense of what the animal was like. After I noticed what an improvement it was, I began taking all the dogs and cats’ photos for the website and from there I just kept adding more. Besides, I get such pleasure from it. 

Gimme Shelter Courtney Cox
Courtney Cox and her daughter Coco – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: When did you decide to do ‘Gimme Shelter,’ your great book of these photos?

SAW: I wanted to do a book before I started taking photos of shelter animals. a few years before I volunteered I had an idea for a coffee table book with celebrities and their pets. But didn’t actually do the book until after I started to volunteer at Pet Orphans and decided to add the rescue pets as well.

Want to Adopt a Pet? Check out Pet Orphans 

Suzanne Allison Witkin, her book and a friend - Photo for California Rocker
Suzanne Allison Witkin, her book and a friend – Photo for California Rocker

CR: What are some of the challenges in photographing pets in a studio setting?

SAW: Getting them to stay still in the right lighting. Outdoor photos are easier but I like the portrait look of the studio photos better sometimes. It captures every bit of detail. I sometimes need an assistant to help. And they get bored quickly as well. Gotta be fast and make really silly noises to get their attention.

CR: What was the funniest thing that ever happened on a shoot?

SAW: I got peed on. 

Marilyn Manson Gimme Shelter
Marilyn Manson and Lily White – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: What was the most amazing thing that ever happened on a shoot?

SAW: A scared and aggressive dog bonded with me. She was shaking so bad and hid but finally came out and smiled and gave me kisses

Johnny Depp Pet Orphans Gimme Shelter
Johnny Depp and painting by Johnny of his Dog Moo – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: Do the photos of the pets actually help them get adopted from Pet Orphans?

SAW: Yes, in fact, more rescues and shelters are trying to get better photos and videos of the animals at the shelters. Lot’s of adopters are afraid of the animal if they look sick, dirty or scary. Or they can’t tell what the animal looks like.

Check Out Pet Orphans’ Facebook Page for Cute Animals

CR: Who are the people behind Pet Orphans, board members of course, but who is the person who started it and why?

SAW: There were three women back in 1973 and one of the women found a dog by the freeway. After that, they started to rescue more and made their homes into a small rescue. A short time later, they raised enough money and wound up getting a facility donated to them. They started a 501c3 charity and 46 years later, Pet Orphans is still around and saving many lives. Sadly the last remaining co founder past away a little over a year ago. She took me under her wing and made I became president 2 1/2 years ago. We have five board members, some new, and some have been with Pet Orphans many years.  The three founders were Diane A. Scripps (1928 – 2015) Virginia M. Haley, and Lorraine Neikirk (1927 – 2002)

Gimme Shelter the book
Gimme Shelter the book is available for the holidays – Photo for CaliforniaRocker.com

Pet Orphans is open Monday-Friday 12 PM to -4 PM and Saturday and Sunday 12 PM to 5 PM. The address for Pet Orphans is 7720 Gloria Avenue in Van Nuys. Call (818) 901-0190 or visit Pet Orphans online at PetOrphans.org or at Facebook.com/PetOrphansofSouthernCalifornia.  

To buy a copy of Gimme Shelter go to the Gimme Shelter Book website.

To support Pet Orphans or adopt a pet go here.