Kathie Ono, hero to homeless pets

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 8/14/19

FAIRHOPE - It’s Tuesday at The Haven for Animals, and Kathie Ono has turned one of the rooms into a professional photography shoot.

A Haven employee is checking off a list of names, bringing …

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Kathie Ono, hero to homeless pets

Kathie Ono.
Kathie Ono.
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FAIRHOPE - It’s Tuesday at The Haven for Animals, and Kathie Ono has turned one of the rooms into a professional photography shoot.

A Haven employee is checking off a list of names, bringing the next cat or dog into the room for their turn in front of the camera. As the kittens attempt to explore their new surroundings and the puppies bark and chase their tails in excitement, Ono lovingly and patiently picks up toys and uses them to capture her subjects’ attention, snapping photos as she speaks encouragement for the good job the animals are doing.

This is a typical Tuesday at The Haven ever since Ono made it her mission to help the homeless pet community.

At The Haven in Fairhope, pets await their forever family to walk through the doors and find them, changing each other’s lives as soon as the adoption application is filed.

For many homeless pets, the waiting is difficult as they have no means to actively search for their new home. That’s where volunteers come in, volunteers such as Ono, owner of Ono Pet Photography and an avid animal rescuer. Every possible Tuesday, she makes her way to The Haven with her professional equipment, photographing the adoptable animals to introduce them to potential homes.

“Kathie sets up several pieces of her own equipment that she brings here in special cases,” said Michael Graham, executive director of The Haven. “Once she’s finished setting up, the room is transformed into a movie set as she pulls out several props and contraptions that will spark the interest of the cats and dogs to capture the best photos she can. She’s a hero in my eyes, and I would bet she is in the eyes of the homeless pets too.”

With the help of Haven employee Kendra, Ono takes professional photos of several cats and dogs, capturing their most unique traits and working with them for as long as it takes to achieve the perfect picture to show off. She then edits the photos herself before passing them on to The Haven staff to be posted on their website. Her volunteer efforts have been acknowledged by Petfinder.com as a great example to other rescue groups and shelters aiming to end pet homelessness.

It was through the animals that Ono discovered a passion for photography. She originally served at The Haven as a volunteer coordinator and then as office manager before developing her own pet photography business in 2015.

“I was never one who was crazy about taking pictures of everything,” Ono said. “I liked photography, but I didn’t always have a camera in my hand. When I was working here in 2013 I was asked if I would take some quick pictures of the animals at adoption events and such, and I found that I really loved taking pictures of the animals. I decided to purchase a better camera, and then I started going to classes for photography learning about landscapes, but I didn’t enjoy it as much. I would go to the Fairhope Pier to take pictures for my sunset assignment and I’d see a dog and start taking pictures of the dog instead!”

For the last six years Ono has assisted by taking photos of the animals at The Haven, but starting in 2015 her hobby took a professional turn. Through her years of working with animals she knows how to be patient and understanding towards her subjects in order to capture the perfect picture.

“The first thing I do when they bring me an animal at The Haven is look for what makes them unique that I want to highlight in the photo,” she said. “Like how some kittens have little mustaches and some dogs have really cute ears, you’ve got to make sure to capture those unique features to show them off to potential families.”

She tries to give special attention to all the animals she photographs at The Haven as well as pets of her clients, taking time to interact and meet the animals prior to the photo shoot. When dealing with clients, she meets with the families up to four times during the process, first by meeting the pet and allowing them to get to know her, then the photo shoot itself, followed by showing the family the pictures to allow them to decide what they’d like and finally with the delivery of the product. She offers a wide-array of choices, from canvas wraps to acrylics.

Along with volunteering for The Haven, Kathie reposts their Pet of the Day to her own Facebook page, as well as other photos she takes of the homeless pets in an effort to introduce them to their forever home.

You can follow her Facebook page, Ono Pet Photography, to see more of her works, and for more information on her professional pet photography. Check out The Haven’s website at www.havenforanimals.org for adoptable pets and adoption information, volunteering information, and donation options.