The catalyst for ARF came on May 7, 1990 at a televised baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. In the middle of an inning and amidst cheers from spectators, a stray tortoiseshell cat looking for food took a wrong turn and suddenly found herself on the playing field.
Trapped in the enormous Oakland Coliseum and frightened by the roar of the crowd, the frantic cat dashed around the field, desperately leaping at any means of escape and eluding the players and umpires who tried to capture her. Panicked and unable to find a way out, she slinked towards the infield, exhausted from her ordeal. Tony La Russa, then-manager for the Oakland Athletics, coaxed her gently into the A's dugout where she would spend the rest of the game in safe confines.
Tony and his wife Elaine, a life-long animal advocate, discovered there was not a single no-kill shelter in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area and that the little cat would likely be euthanized. They took her under their wing and exhausted every lead in hopes of finding a safe haven. At last, they were able to place "Evie" – named after Oakland A's team owner, Evie Haas - in a permanent, loving home where she could live out her natural life.
Evie wouldn't be the last "save" of Tony's career.
The experience awakened Elaine and Tony to the realization of the desperate circumstances in besieged public animal shelters and the plight of homeless dogs and cats, and inspired them to take action. Less than a year later, they co-founded ARF with the goal of rescuing dogs and cats before they ran out of time at high-kill shelters.