Helping the Homeless and Their Pets

Across this country, millions of families struggle to make ends meet. Thousands of others live on the street, scrounging for scraps to feed their loved ones and themselves.

An estimated five to 10 percent of homeless people in the United States have pets. Walk through just about any neighborhood - or under a freeway overpass - and we’ll find that families in need love their pets the same way those of us with deeper pockets and a roof over our head do. When the going gets tough, they pull their pets close. For some people, pets may be their only family.

Occasionally, an underprivileged person believes that they can no longer responsibly care for their pet and they consider the unthinkable: surrendering their pet to the local shelter in hopes that a loving family can give them what they believe they no longer can.

But thanks to the individual and collaborative work of so many rescue agencies and animal advocacy groups, surrender for hardship reasons may become a thing of the past - and the best “present” of all for the pet.

The Pasadena Humane Society and ASPCA has just launched it’s “Helping Paws” program dedicated to providing services and resources to help families keep their pets. The program features a free food bank, low- or no-cost wellness services and low cost boarding for people who need little more than some time to get back on their feet.

Last week, Pasadena Humane and ASPCA received more than 3,700 pounds of nutritious food from American Humane, America’s first national humane organization, and Chicken Soup for the Soul, who’ve teamed up for a national campaign called “Fill-a-Bowl . . .Feed-a-Soul.”

Downtown Dog Rescue (DDR) in Los Angeles gets down in the trenches to fight for disadvantaged families with pets. In 2016, DDR opened its Pet Resource Center (PRC) to serve the Skid Row community. As roughly half of the people DDR serves are homeless, many needs are basic: food, a collar, a leash. But the PRC also provides free spay/neuter services, vaccinations, flea meds and microchipping. Additionally, PRC helps clients wade through the morass of paperwork needed to designate their pets as Emotional Support Animals. 

Partnering with the Inner City Law Center and and Los Angles Animal Services, and reliant on public donations, DDR continues to help animal and human families stay together “without judgement and a whole lot of compassion.”

What began in 2008 as a mission to ensure that shelter animals are comfortable, warm and more adoptable, Operation Blankets of Love (OBOL), has grown to extend a loving hand to the homeless and their four-legged families. Since its inception, OBOL’s Homeless People’s Pets Community Outreach Project has delivered pet food, animal care products and comfort/aid items including blankets, pet beds and toys to more than 2,000 families battling the elements. OBOL’s efforts to help the homeless have been acknowledged by People Assisting the Homeless (P.A.T.H.) in Hollywood, CA, and rescue organizations in Medford, Oregon.

Many cities have similar programs dedicated to helping needy families and their pets stay together in all kinds of weather. Rescue Legacy tips its hat to all these special groups - sung and unsung - that promote pets-as-family-values. We appreciate the staggering scope of human and material resources required to bring sustenance to needy families. We also know that far too many cities do not have such programs.

Give time, effort, ideas, skills, the change between your couch cushions, and/or your city council a piece of your mind.

Whatever our problems, at least we’re not facing them in a bone-chilling headwind.