PLANTSVILLE – Classic cars came to the Southington Drive-In Sunday to help raise money for Best Friends for Life Animal Rescue.
Volunteers from the non-profit organization staffed the 7th annual Cars 4 Paws Car Show, educating visitors on their mission and how to help.
Collecting donations from show car owners at the entrance was Andy Thornton, the “Little Brother” of Best Friends for Life co-founder Tony Bagliore.
“Tony has done so much for me over the years…I’m just here today for him and the animals,” said Thornton, a Bristol native who was mentored by Bagliore through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization during his childhood.
The two have stayed close over the years and Thornton supports Bagliore and his wife Marina’s charity efforts to rescue homeless animals and find them forever homes.
“We need a lot of volunteers and people to foster,” Marina pointed out. “We’re spreading the word to responsible pet owners.”
Since being established in 2002, Best Friends has rescued countless dogs nationwide, fostering them until they can be placed in good homes. Their animals can be found on petfinder.com and adoptapet.com.
Bagliore, who also owns Tony’s Oil out of Southington and is an EMT, converted an old ambulance into their rescue van.
“We’ve been doing this now for 20 years,” he explained. “We basically rescue dogs that are in danger of being euthanized. We pull a lot of dogs from Kentucky, Mississippi and Arkansas.”
They rely on foster care parents like Pam Lynch to care for rescues until they can be placed in a proper home with a responsible family.
“Tommy is my current dog,” Lynch said, showing a photograph of the pup on her phone. “This past year I’ve had seven dogs. An animal dies if I don’t take them in my house to foster. It makes me cry because I love my babies.”
About 75 show cars participated Sunday. That’s less than in past years, which Bagliore said could be in part due to the ongoing pandemic but also the day’s stifling heat.
Other animal rescue organizations participated, including Desmond’s Army Animal Law Advocates. Vice President and Treasurer Linda Pleva, who lives in Plainville, was happy to be among fellow animal lovers.
“We’re trying to not just raise funds but educate the public on what we do and why our group is so necessary,” Pleva said. “We advocate for stronger laws in regards to people who abuse or neglect animals.”
Animal abuse correlates heavily with elder, child and domestic abuse, she pointed out.
“It’s a big red flag, this crime,” Pleva added.
Partnering with other animal rights’ organizations helps both their causes, according to Bagliore.
“We’re all doing the same thing,” he said. “Helping animals.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.