Leslie Sadeghi Brooks, DVM
People experiencing homelessness and those who are at risk of experiencing homelessness many times have a connection with a pet dog or cat. This pet provides them with companionship, emotional and mental support, and sometimes protection. For many of these people, the pet even provides an incentive for them to get back on their feet and into a situation that is better for both them and their pet. However, the pet inevitably sometimes also is a hindrance and acts as a barrier for the person to get the help or services they need to attain housing or medical care. For instance, many people will not go into medical care and treatment for fear of losing their pet, many will not seek shelter in the winter for fear of leaving their pet outside alone, and many will not seek temporary housing to become permanently housed as many temporary facilities do not allow pets.
We have created an organization that works to alleviate these barriers by providing a foster program for these pets. This gives their owners the time they need to obtain the medical care and/or resources they need to get better, with an end goal of becoming housed and in a more stable living environment. Person and pet are then reunited, and the pet is ideally house trained from going through the foster program. We also provide veterinary care for the pet while in the foster program, and continue follow up with them once they are reunited and help them when and where needed. We require the pets’ owners to check in with us regularly and we make sure they are getting the treatment or care they need and take reasonable steps and make goals to get to be in a sustainable place in their lives.
Doing this work for the past three to four years in our community we have worked with the chronically and temporary homeless, those fleeing domestic abuse and violence, veterans, those in a bind due to medical bills or the need for medical care of their own, those with mental illness, and even convicted felons. We have prevented many pets from being added to the burden of the local animal shelters and thus prevented pets from being unnecessarily euthanized. We have also seen our clients have less recidivism than those without pets, due to their dedication to their pets and the support system they provide. We have researched and have not found this process being done anywhere else and feel there is a need for it to be replicated in other cities.