It’s been said that dog is man’s best friend. This is even more true for those who live on the street. Many homeless people, rather than send their pet to an animal shelter, choose to keep them for the same reasons the rest of us do: for love, companionship, safety, protection, and a sense of purpose. According to the National Institute of Health, nearly 25% of homeless people have pets. But financial problems can leave pet owners scrambling for a solution. Here are some ways we all can help.
1. Show Compassion
Attitude is everything – and when it comes to the homeless, most of us have the wrong attitude. Some folks believe that the homeless shouldn’t have pets because they don’t think they’re able to take care of them or that they’re just using them to get money from people. What they don’t realize is just how much those pets mean to them. Many homeless hang on to their pets for love and protection, but there’s also another reason. According to the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, several homeless people have said having a pet helps them manage their drug and alcohol addictions.
Taking the time to consider the bond between the homeless and their pets can go a long way in getting them the help they need. According to the National Institute of Health, a positive attitude is a necessity when it comes to caring for the impoverished, and it also plays an important role in the development of future caregivers.
2. Make a Donation
Many non-profit organizations that provide help to homeless pet owners rely on fundraisers and/or donations from individuals to survive. When we hear the word donation, we typically think of money. But, there are plenty of other items you can donate that are just as helpful. These include pet food, toys, treats, cleaning supplies, and litter. Of course it certainly doesn’t hurt to give money. In fact, monetary donations raised for veterinary clinics and hospitals help them upgrade their facilities to provide better care for these pets. You can donate to one of the national organizations and/or those in your local area. Donations can be made in person and online.
Organizations like Pets of the Homeless and PAWS Pet Pantry need volunteers to assist in many areas, including grant writing, collecting donations, performing administrative tasks, and recruiting donation sites. Potential donation sites include veterinary clinics, pet food stores, dog daycare centers, pharmacies, schools, dental offices, non-profits, and other businesses. You can help with food distribution, too. Many volunteers bring food to collection sites or distribute it on the streets themselves. Lastly, Pets of the Homeless looks for volunteer veterinarians and assistants to go where the homeless are and administer veterinary care to their pets. Signing up to volunteer is easy. Simply log on to the website and fill out a form.
4. Offer to Take Their Pet to Get Spayed or Neutered
Pet-friendly homeless shelters typically require pets to be spayed or neutered. This requires money and transportation – both of which are hard to come by when you’re homeless. If you’re in a position financially to pay for the services, you can offer to take the pet to a local veterinarian to get the surgery done. Not to worry if you’re currently strapped for cash. There are many SPCAs that offer low-cost or free spay and neuter services. Also, some wellness clinics serving homeless pet owners provide vouchers for spay and neuter surgeries.
A word of caution: Some of them may refuse your help out of fear they won’t get their pet back. But you don’t have to let that stop you. Instead, try to come up with ways to help ease their fears.
5. Sign or Start a Petition
First used in England, a petition can be a powerful, effective tool when trying to gain some privilege, right, or benefit. In fact, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Many homeless shelters don’t allow pets due to a number of reasons, including health and safety regulations, allergies, lack of dog licenses, or just plain noisiness. A petition can help change that. You can easily find petitions online that you can add your signature to. Search Google for petitions seeking support for allowing pets in homeless shelters. If you can’t find any, you can easily start one of your own for free using a petition platform website like Change.org. With hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of signatures, you can send a strong message to public officials and perhaps make a difference in the lives of homeless pet parents.
6. Start Your Own Non-Profit
You don’t have to wait for someone else to create an opportunity for you to give back to your community. Take the initiative and start an organization of your own! Though this task may seem daunting at first, there’s plenty of helpful information out there that can show you how to get started.
Here are some useful tips:
-Do your research. Make sure you have a good business plan in place and that it meets the necessary local, state and federal requirements.
-Get inspiration from real-life stories of people who have started their own non-profit organization.
-Seek financial help from crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe.
-Get press coverage. If people aren’t aware of your organization, they can’t help out.
-Enlist the help of family and friends. While there’s a lot of helpful information at your fingertips, starting your own non-profit can be challenging. You don’t have to go at it alone. Dole out simple tasks like labeling or envelope stuffing to your kids. Or, find people in the neighborhood who’d be willing to volunteer their time. Remember, there’s strength in numbers. The more help you can get, the better.
7. Raise Awareness
Sometimes people don’t get the help they need because they aren’t aware of the resources available to them. A simple conversation with the homeless about their situation and the programs and services available to them and their pets can make all the difference in the world.
For example, some homeless pet owners may not know that are a few pet-friendly shelters out there or that some veterinary clinics offer free services to the impoverished. For example, a veterinary clinic in Sweden expanded its services to provide free care to pets of the homeless. Still, other organizations provide pet supplies like sleeping crates to homeless shelters at no cost to the shelter or the pet owner.
Can you think of other ways to help? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you!