Pet Assist: helping people and pets in crisis

Imagine a fire destroys a person’s home, someone is temporarily hospitalized, or another is struggling in a domestic violence situation and must leave quickly. In these scenarios, if that person has a pet, they could be faced with having to give up their furry companion because they can’t afford to board their animal and they don’t know anyone who can help. Or, these pet owners may be faced with refusing vital medical care or leaving their pet in a dangerous environment. Thanks to the Dumb Friends League Pet Assist program, people and pets in crisis have an alternative.

As of 2016, the Pet Assist program became formalized as a way to support pets and their owners in domestic violence situations. Over the years, the program has transformed to help those in need of a temporary safe place for their pet to live due to a variety of factors that leave them unable to care for their animals and when no other assistance is available.

Anyone can contact the League to learn more about the Pet Assist program, and community caseworkers can reach out on a pet owner’s behalf. In each case, the League’s foster team assesses the person’s situation and the animal to ensure they are a fit for the program. Acceptance into the Pet Assist program may be dependent on available space in foster homes and the shelter.

As part of the program, the owner must relinquish their pet to the League, which allows us to provide veterinary care, and place the pet in a foster home or shelter foster kennel. However, the pet’s owner is the only person who can claim the animal within the agreed upon timeframe. All animals accepted into the program are vaccinated and receive an evaluation by one of our veterinarians.

The Pet Assist program is designed for cats and dogs, but small animals may be considered based on special approval. The animals are held initially for three weeks, and the duration can be extended as needed based on an owner’s specific circumstances and the resources of the shelter. Due to the high variability of intake and population, the number of animals that can be enrolled in the Pet Assist program at any given time varies. The League continues to seek more volunteers to foster these animals in crisis. To learn more about providing a safe foster opportunity for these pets, please visit ddfl.org/foster.

“The Pet Assist program is one that touches our community members, and we are all so very proud of the help we can provide,” said Tori Williams, veterinary services manager. “Our goal is to keep these pets with the loving owners they already have, instead of trying to find new ones. We all fall on hard times, and I am so glad we are able to provide this resource.”

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