Forty years ago, John Cunningham and Jim Stauffer opened Friends of the Sea Lion for a simple reason: They were running out of space.
Stauffer and Cunningham, both Laguna Beach lifeguards at the time, were rescuing sea lions and putting them in Stauffer's backyard. They built a pool, fed the mammals and nursed them back to health.
Decades later, Friends of the Sea Lion, which is now called the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, is the main marine rescue facility in Orange County.
Before the center, Cunningham said, there weren't any organizations, city or county services that could properly address sea lions that washed up on Laguna Beach's shores.
"There was a gigantic need to have something done about it," he said.
There were misunderstandings about sea lions, he said, such as people believing they needed to be wet all the time.
People would try to get the sea lions out to the water, but they might have been sick or just needed to lay out in the sun. The sea lions also posed a danger to people while on the beach.