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Pet support services provide help for caregivers facing hardships with the goal of keeping families together, even in tough times. Support may include, but is not limited to: telephone response and advice, medical support for owned pets, food and supplies, fence building and pet shelter provision, behavior support, vaccines and microchips, free and low-cost spay and neuter, crisis and emergency boarding, owned pet fostering, and pet deposits and advocacy for apartment dwellers.
When Jade was going through a tough time and could not afford a pet deposit for her four Chihuahuas, Daisy, Coco, Tiny, and Benjie, she thought she had no other option than to surrender them to the shelter. When she arrived at Pima Animal Care Center with the pups, she found out about a program that would assist with funding her pet deposits and the pups did not have to be taken into the shelter! She was set up with free spay/neuter services, and Jade and her pups were able to stay together!
Before you implement Pet Support Services programming, use the following as a guide.
This can better prepare your organization to prioritize and focus on building and shifting programming and services that will best support your community members’ needs. Use the Community Partnership FUN! Brainstorming Worksheet to outline these needs and who/if anyone can help in the community.
Examples of this include free or low cost veterinary care, pet food pantry, safe haven care for pet guardians in short term crisis, rental pet fee assistance, fencing or containment assistance, grooming, etc..Use the Ideal Animal Welfare Ecosystem as a guide. This is a list of resources that ideally exist in your community for pet caretakers to access.
See VCAS Alternatives to Surrender. You may choose to add an online pet support survey to your resource list.
Ensure they all have access to your community resource list and basic medical and behavior information sheets.
Choose a database or data tracking tool that allows your team to document all the resources and services provided to each individual and/or family, this includes outcome tracking.
Train staff and volunteers to work with families to provide resources and answer calls.
Shift intake staff into pet support roles. Intake will still take place, but with more pet support services being provided, less animals will need to enter the system.
The Community Partnership Worksheet can be used to assess which animal services resources the community needs and who provides them in your community. It can be used to compare against what your agency/organization offers and how you can pivot to fill gaps.
One of the biggest challenges in increasing accessibility to pet support services is making sure community members are aware of all the resources they have access to in their communities. A successful pet support services program would see an increase in connecting families to local social service agencies.
Another challenge is tracking outcomes after the human-animal family has left the shelter, but with proper documentation and follow up phone calls, a successful pet support services program can see an increase in families staying together long-term.
Since many families may just need temporary support, such as housing, veterinary care, and supplies, a successful pet support services program can see an increase in intake diversion and less animals surrendered into the shelter system.