Thursday, October 6, 2011
Have you heard of them? How about Pets of the Homeless? This outstanding national nonprofit organization—known by both names—is a volunteer-based group intent on providing pet food and veterinary care to the homeless, transitional and less fortunate on a local level.
It all started when animal lover Genevieve Frederick noticed a homeless man with a dog. She wondered what the man fed the dog and whether it was nutritious. She wondered how the animal stayed healthy and what the man would do if the dog needed medical attention. After her initial research, Frederick decided to act on her findings. She turned her simple questions into a national organization with over 290 collection sites in the United States, several in Canada and one in Australia. Since 2008, Pets of the Homeless has collected over 76 tons of pet food and provided more than 2,500 animals with vaccinations and medical care.
While the number is a moving target, the Pets of the Homeless website reports that approximately 3.5 million Americans are homeless. Of that 3.5 million, between five and ten percent have pets. That’s a lot of hungry dogs and cats! Moreover, studies show that many homeless people are in a transitional stage and are without a place to live for only a short period of time. Finding temporary housing or a rent subsidy is difficult for those with pets.
Pets of the Homeless wants to help underprivileged people keep their pets with them, well-fed and cared for. They believe in the healing power of companion animals and of the strength of the human/animal bond. Another important consideration is that they want to keep homeless people’s pets out of overcrowded animal shelters.
The organization’s mission, while noble, is a huge undertaking. How does Pets of the Homeless manage to collect pet food, organize volunteers, and distribute food to underprivileged animal lovers? How do they get veterinarians and dogs in the same location? Donations and ingenuity. They get support from the general public, generous pet food manufacturers and resourceful veterinarians. Additionally, they receive grants from private foundations.
Regarding food collection and distribution, Pets of the Homeless solicits local pet related organizations to become members by establishing themselves as collection sites. Donations of pet supplies and food are received at these member collection sites and transported to local shelters and food banks that agree to distribute the supplies to the homeless.
Regarding medical attention, grants from private foundations have allowed Pets of the Homeless to provide over $61,000 to veterinarians who will travel to wherever homeless people congregate and set up daily animal wellness clinics. (Transportation is a problem for the underprivileged population).
Additionally, pet food pantries and food banks are springing up to help feed pets of the homeless. The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank is Portland, Oregon’s first food bank just for pets. CANIDAE Natural Pet Food Company was instrumental in the opening of this local charity which serves Portland’s homeless and low income pet owners. For more information, see: CANIDAE Helps The Pongo Fund Feed Pets in Need and The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank: A True Success Story.
Genevieve Frederick makes things happen. She told me: “Our mission is very specific. The numbers of collection sites, volunteers and distributing partners grow each day. On the down side, the number of homeless contacting us for pet food and veterinary care grow even faster.” When I asked Genevieve about new initiatives, she responded: “Until such time as we are more financially stable, we do not have any plans to start new programs. One that is under consideration is a foster program for pets of the homeless.” I’m sure they’ll get that program off the ground soon.
Listen to Pets of the Homeless Founder and Executive Director Genevieve Frederick discuss the organization on the Behind the Curtain online radio show. To learn more and find out how you can help, visit the Pets of the Homeless website or find them on Facebook.
Photo by .Craig
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell