Man makes ‘paw’-sitive impact on Fresno County strays

Jeremy Provencio, founder of Pawfinders and Valley Fosters, remains relentless when it comes to rescuing animals

Jeremy Provencio, founder of Pawfinders and Valley Fosters, feeds “Fluffy” one of several rescued dogs in his care. (Kenny Goodman)
Darren Fraser
Published February 25, 2024  • 
11:00 am

FRESNO COUNTY – As stray dogs continue to overcrowd local shelters and meet unfortunate fates along the major roads that crisscross this area of the Central Valley, it might be easy to come to the conclusion that no one is lifting a finger to help address this issue. 

But Jeremy Provencio is lifting a finger. And he is doing a lot more than that.

Provencio is the founder of Pawfinders – not to be confused with the company that makes dog tags and such. Pawfinders is what its name implies. It is an organization that finds lost pets and returns them to their owners. Pawfinders also humanely traps stray animals and does everything it can to find these animals homes. 

He is also the founder of Valley Fosters, a division of Pawfinders. Valley Fosters is a rescue organization that provides short-term foster holds for stray dogs and surrenders so they don’t end up in already-overcrowded shelters.

Provencio, 49, is a Central Valley native. From his own account of how he got to this point, Provencio came to this stage of his life through an odd set of circumstances.

“I went to Stanford for college,” he said. Stanford is where Provencio met his girlfriend, who was from Alaska. After eventually graduating from Stanford, he moved to Anchorage to be with his girlfriend. He worked in the technology sector, and made good money.

The first circumstance involved a piece of land in the wilderness his girlfriend owned. After assorted misadventures with poachers and squatters, Provencio acquired the property. Along the way, he started his own company and despite doing well financially, he was faced with dwindling resources. He lived out of his office for a spell.

However, at the start of 2019, his health started to fail, and because of it, he couldn’t work more than 20 hours a month. During this time, he met women in Anchorage who were rescuing cats, and this circumstance planted the seeds of what would eventually lead to the creation of Pawfinders and, later, Valley Fosters.

As for improving his health, on July 4, 2019, he went to an urgent care, but did not receive a definitive diagnosis. That December, he went to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He was eventually operated on and received chemotherapy but the doctors in Anchorage said he required treatment that was above their pay grade.

At the start of 2020, Provencio reached out to his alma mater and Stanford Hospital. The hospital agreed to take him as a patient. But when he arrived at the hospital in May 2020, he was informed there was no financial agreement in place to pay for his treatment.

“Stanford was great,” he said. “They told me they’d take me on. They just never told me I’d have to pay.”

The third circumstance that eventually led Provencio to his current line of work occurred after he begged the hospital to operate.

“I pretty much cried in front of them in the office,” he said. Call it divine intervention or just plain good luck, in a matter of hours, the hospital was able to arrange for Provencio’s treatment, including surgery, to be covered.

THE POSTER KING

When he was at Stanford, in 1992, Provencio got a job putting up posters advertising a software program to help law students pass the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). His proficiency soon caught the eye of the maker of the software.

“Other students were either putting up hardly any or throwing them away,” he said.

He had an epiphany, of sorts.

“What if people put up posters like this for missing pets?” he remembered thinking. The germ of that idea stayed with him, coming to fruition years later.

Following his treatment, and before he established Pawfinders and Valley Fosters, Provencio was unable to work. He saved some money from his years in Anchorage, but not much. He divided his time between his parent’s houses, in Clovis and Fresno. He was unable to work.

He remembered the LSAT experience. As the saying goes, one thing led to another and he was soon putting up posters in his and surrounding neighborhoods for missing pets.

VALLEY FOSTERS

In the nearly four years since he started putting up posters, a lot has changed for Provencio. While he still does 90% of the work to trap strays, others have pitched in with the post-trapping work.

“I always get calls from people who want me to get a dog out of their yard,” he said. “But they don’t consider what happens to the dog after that.”

Fresno resident Andrea Garcia is one of the people who have stepped up. Garcia and her uncle help with trapping, but their forte is finding shelter for animals. Garcia has set up kennels at her home to temporarily house the animals.

Provencio said he has a 10-by-10 foot and two 5-by-10 foot kennels in Lemoore. These kennels serve as more long term shelter for animals whereas the kennels in Fresno are for short term.

In addition to Garcia, Provencio said there are seven others who are serving as fosters for the animals. These individuals are currently fostering 12 dogs.

Provencio’s territory runs from Madera to Visalia. Of the animals he traps, 40% have owners; the rest are strays or feral. Regardless of where the animal came from, Provencio said the simple fact is they have nowhere to go.

“There are too many dogs,” he said. “Too much euthanasia.”

Pawfinders and Valley Fosters rely on donations to keep going. Provencio said he recently held a trap fundraiser. He was able to purchase a new trap plus a drop trap for cats.

As for Provencio, he keeps going. All the time.

“While I’ve been talking to you,” he said, “three people have called me about their lost pets.”

He added, “Just put me on the next job and I’ll do it well.”

Darren Fraser
Reporter