Thursday, September 2, 2010

What About the Pets of the Homeless

"Homelessness is the number one risk factor for companion animals in the United States. These animals die for no other reason than the mere fact that they, for whatever reason, lack a home," says ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres in an April 2010 statement
 It is estimated by the National Coalition for the Homeless that 3.5 million people are homeless. Between 5% to 10% of homeless people have dogs and/or cats. In some areas of the country the rate is as high as 24%. Most people who experience homelessness are homeless for a short period of time, and usually need help finding housing or a rent subsidy. But unfortunately for those with pets it becomes more difficult. Many are forced to choose between their pet or a roof over their head. Surprisingly, most choose to stay on the streets with their pets for longer periods of time
 In 2006, while visiting New York City, Pets of the Homeless founder, Genevieve Frederick, saw a homeless man begging while his pathetic dog lay beside him. Unable to get this vision from her head, she began researching the homeless with pets. A persistent thought whirled around in her head, "Why would these people, who can barely feed themselves, have a pet?" The answer became apparent with the realization of how nonjudgmental pets are, they provide comfort, give love and an emotional bond of loyalty without complaint. It was also clear, in some cases, how pets provide protection and warmth. The staggering, countless number of pets of the homeless touched Frederick to the extent she felt compelled to do something. Thus Pets of the Homeless was born. Since 2008, 53.7 tons of pet food has been donated and distributed.

Pets of the Homeless is a nonprofit all volunteer organization that provides pet food and veterinary care to the homeless and less fortunate in local communities across the United States and Canada. Their member collection sites accept donated pet food from people like you and me. They then deliver it to distributing organizations (food banks, homeless shelter and/or soups kitchens) which have agreed to distribute the pet food to the homeless and poor. They also award grants to veterinarians who go where the homeless congregate to provide veterinary care and have a pet sleeping crate program

Want to help? It can be as easy as repackaging donated pet food into quart sized baggies and deliver to a distribution site. Most homeless with pets are transit and move around daily seeking shelter, food, water and bathrooms. Distribution centers (Food Banks/Soup Kitchens) need to have repackaged pet food in smaller quantities to give away. Larger bags of food are impossible for the homeless to manage. Can you imagine carrying 25 pounds of pet food? You can help to recruit distribution sites, volunteer at a soup kitchen and spread the word. Take to the streets and distribute pet food to the homeless. Talk to your local vets and help them become a collection site for donated pet food. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

The dog and cat companions of the homeless need food, medical care, spay/neutering, and kindness. Pets of the Homeless is a voice for them. Join them.

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