According to the ASPCA’s pet statistics, approximately 7.6 million animals enter America’s estimated 13,600 shelters every year. While a large portion of animals entering shelters are strays, we know a significant number are also surrendered by their families. We hear so many stories about animals who are abused and abandoned, or dumped at shelters when people no longer want to care for them – but what about animals being surrendered because their families feel they have no other choice?
In a 2012 survey, 63.2 percent of people considered their pets to be family members. Imagine the heartache you’d experience over making the decision to surrender your pet, wanting nothing more than to keep them, but being unable to do so because your family is experiencing a crisis. Financial struggles, homelessness, domestic abuse situations and lack of pet-friendly housing are just some of the reasons people are forced to part with their pets. And in other cases, people find themselves unable to afford food or medical care, resulting in unintentional animal neglect.
These organizations understand the strong bond between humans and pets, and are working to make sure that when an individual or family encounters hard times, they’re given options that help keep pets with their families and out of shelters.
1. ASPCA Safety Net Programs
The ASPCA’s safety net programs aim to help prevent animals being surrendered to shelters by providing services like one-on-one counseling, pet food banks, vaccination and spay/neuter clinics, pet help lines, behavior classes and help lines, and housing assistance for times of crisis. So far, they’ve established programs in Alabama, California, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio. Each program is uniquely created based on the immediate needs of the community being served. Their online guide serves as a helpful resource for shelters wishing to establish safety net programs of their own.
2. Downtown Dog Rescue’s Shelter Intervention Program
Downtown Dog Rescue was founded in 1997 to help find adoptive homes for stray and abandoned animals. After seeing a need to help community members keep and care for their pets, they launched their Shelter Intervention Program, which serves homeless and low-income residents in Los Angeles, California. Their counselors help individuals reclaim their pets from shelters; assist with pet care costs such as vetting, food and pet care supplies; assist with pet deposits at rental properties; and help with home repairs like fence repair and dog house construction to help keep pets safe. The founder of Downtown Dog Rescue has also written a book to help spread awareness and assist advocates with creating shelter intervention programs in their own communities.
3. People & Pets Together
Minnesota-based People & Pets Together was founded in 2009 to help people keep their pets instead of having to surrender them to a shelter in moments of crisis. What started as a food support program grew into hosting vaccine clinics where people can get discounted vaccinations for their pets, and a veterinary grant program for pets with more extensive medical needs. After six years of operation, they were able to open a rescue center that focuses on serving lower-income neighborhoods in the city of Minneapolis. People who meet the income requirements are able to get essentials like food, litter, toys and pet care supplies on site. The organization also helps animals state-wide by providing resources for pet-friendly housing and low-cost veterinary services, and by providing pet food and supplies to other food shelves throughout Minnesota.
RedRover’s overall mission “is to bring animals out of crisis and strengthen the bond between people and animals through emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance, and education.” One of their programs, RedRover Relief, provides assistance to individuals experiencing financial difficulties and those who need to escape abusive environments with their pets. Their relief grants help keep animals with their family members by taking away some of the worry people experience when facing difficult situations. They also have grants available to assist non-profit organizations who serve community members in need with pet food pantries and other services. The organization has a list on their website where you can find programs offering similar services throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Lending a Hand
A simple unfortunate twist of fate can result in anyone experiencing hard times or financial crisis. It’s important for us to remember not to judge, but instead approach situations with compassion and a willingness to help. These organizations are just a few of the resources available to people in times of crisis. Many local animal shelters offer similar programs to assist community members in need, but they can’t operate without your help. A simple donation of a few dollars, pet care supplies or a bag of food is a simple way to give back to the animal-loving community and help organizations continue to carry out their mission of keeping pets and families together.
Lead image source: Downtown Dog Rescue/Facebook