Homeless With Pets – Choosing Pets Over Shelter
Choosing Pets Over Shelter
We Are Taking Action to Help Pets of the Homeless, by Supplying Pet Food and Veterinarian Care
Feeding Pets of the Homeless is a nonprofit volunteer organization that provides pet food and veterinarian care to the homeless and less fortunate in local communities across the United States and Canada. How? Our volunteers collection sites receive donated pet food and deliver it to food banks and/or soups kitchens which have agreed to distribute the food to the homeless and impoverished.
Our headquarters are in Carson City, Nevada and it is from here that we coordinate and support our volunteer collection sites.
We collect cash donations, we purchase pet food, distribute grant applications to veterinarians, and other nonprofit organizations that meet our objectives, we review and award grants, and we provide marketing materials and promote the organization on behalf of our collection sites to the national media.
Become a collection site or sponsor one today.
Through Feeding Pets of the Homeless, we will do our part to help reduce hunger in pets that belong to the homeless and the less fortunate and provide medical care for those pets in communities across the country.
We believe in the healing power of companion pets and of the human/animal bond which is very important to life.
Our actions include the following:
- Promote to veterinarians and pet related businesses the importance of joining the program
- Speak out on the issue of pets of homeless and the disadvantaged
- Campaign to food distributing organizations the importance of distributing pet food to the less fortunate
- Provide grants to licensed veterinarians and other nonprofit organizations that meet our objectives to administer medical care to pets of the homeless.
“The response from the public has been phenomenal.”
– Genevieve Frederick, Executive Director and Founder (click name to email)
How do you choose between shelter and a best friend? This is the impossible decision pet-lovers face when losing their homes. Since most shelters don’t allow animals, homeless people with pets often elect to stay on the streets rather than part with their four-legged companion… a decision that can be dangerous when the elements become harsh.
Indeed, pets can be a key reason that homeless people choose living on the streets over shelters. The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that between five and ten percentof homeless people have an animal companion (although this has never been formally surveyed). Yet, only two (yes, just 2!) pet-friendly homeless shelters exist in the United States (in Florida and California).
The benefits of having a pet are significant, particularly for homeless people. Pets are non-judgmental and loyal, almost to a fault. They may serve as additional security and protection on the dangerous streets. And studies show that they contribute to the healing process for people with mental or physical illness. According to one expert:
In this very busy twentieth century, man is a lonely creature. There are too many alienated individuals who lack human companionship. They lack purpose and productivity. A simple addition to these lonely lives can sometimes accomplish major changes. The possession of a pet, who eagerly awaits one and responds to one’s care and attention, may mean the difference between maintaining contact with reality or almost total withdrawal into fantasy. Literally, a pet can occasionally represent the difference between life and death.
One organization, Feeding Pets of the Homeless, takes a different approach to this issue. Their take? “Pets of the homeless and disadvantaged do not choose their owners.” To ensure that pets of the homeless receive care and nourishment, they have established a coalition of food banks and veterinarians specifically for pets of the homeless. (Find out if your community is connected.)
Certainly, it’s important to ensure that the pets of homeless people receive adequate care. However, it is even more crucial to recognize that four-legged companions are a key part of a homeless person’s life, but may also create an impermeable barrier for the delivery of life-saving services to homeless people.
Sadly, it is unlikely that more pet-friendly shelters will materialize in the near future, given that many organizations are already struggling to meet the needs of homeless humans (although,Vancouver, BC is the proud new owner of such a shelter).
[Picture: Homeless man with dog from Feeding Pets of the Homeless.]
Shelter Sued for Banning Service Dogs
PUBLISHED JULY 20, 2009 @ 06:02AM PT
Viper is in frail health. She suffers from seizures, gets around in a wheelchair, and uses a catheter. Given her vulnerable condition, Viper is fortunate to have a service dog trained to help her detect and cope with seizures.
Yet, Viper lives on the streets. Simply because her service dog has been turned away from area shelters.
Since most shelters do not allow animals, homeless people with a four-legged friend often choose to live stay on the streets rather than part with their pet. But should homeless individuals with a life-threatening medical condition that requires the help of a service animal be forced to make this same decision?
The Housing Rights Center and the Disability Rights Legal Center certainly doesn’t think so. Last week the organization filed a lawsuit against several Los Angeles homeless shelters alleging that the Americans With Disabilities Act and fair housing laws do not allow discrimination against people just because they rely on service animals.
The service providers interviewed for the LA Times article said it can be difficult to accommodate animals – service or otherwise – in a shelter setting. According to the article, others may be “sleeping nearby who may be allergic or afraid of dogs.”
It would be easy to chastise the shelter in this situation for their apparent lack of concern for medically vulnerable individuals. But keep in mind that shelters are often understaffed and filled to the brims. In a place like LA, shelters beds are in such high demand that turning away a person in need of help is usually not a choice. In addition, as any shelter worker will tell you, managing an emergency shelter is akin to controlling imminent chaos.
While this perspective does not excuse a shelter from turning away a guest with a service animal, it provides a better understanding of the strains shelters face to meet the needs of a growing homeless population.
But just as Viper should not be sleeping on the streets, a homeless shelter is not an appropriate place for her either. Someone as medically vulnerable as Viper should be bypass shelter and go directly into permanent housing with a case manager. This is the only long-term arrangement that will ensure her medical needs are appropriately cared for.
As we move towards a prevention/rapid-rehousing model for providing homeless services, I hope this conversation about service animals in shelters becomes obsolete.
Posted: Just One More Pet
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