Pet Support Services

Pet owners can access pet support services, including housing, medical and behavioral support, as well as food and supplies, to help keep the human-animal family together.
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What are HASS Pet Support Services?

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.

What problem does Pet Support solve?

Some of the most common reasons animals are surrendered to shelters include issues with housing, lack of access to affordable veterinary care, and the need for behavioral support.  Other reasons include financial strain making it difficult to access pet food and supplies, fencing demands, and a variety of human-related factors such as allergies, divorce, and illness. By providing as many resources and services as possible, animal welfare organizations can work toward reducing the barriers to keeping pets and people together.

Pet Support Services Success: Jade and Her Chihuahuas

One of Jade's Chihuahuas

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!

How Organizations Can Begin

Before you implement Pet Support Services programming, use the following as a guide.

1. Identify the top reasons for owner surrender and the most common needs expressed by pet owners in your community.

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.

2. Catalog the support services that are currently available in your 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.

3. Share the pet support resources on your website and social media, create marketing materials, share programmatic information with crisis and community services.

See VCAS Alternatives to Surrender.  You may choose to add an online pet support survey to your resource list.

4. Gather donated items to distribute to pet caretakers, including but not limited to pet food, crates, dog houses, leashes, beds, collars, and more as needed.
  • Add the most needed items to your Amazon wishlist and your general donation lists.
  • Ensure field services vehicles are stocked with donated supplies.
5. Complete the HASS Pet Support Guide and Worksheet to outline resources you have in-house and externally to support the staff and volunteers working with the families needing help.
6. Cross-train all intake and field services staff on pet support resources and schedule a minimum of one person to answer phone calls during operating hours.

Ensure they all have access to your community resource list and basic medical and behavior information sheets.

7. Make all materials available and accessible to non-English speakers and readers.
8. Form partnerships with organizations that will help provide resources and solutions to community needs.

What is Needed to Implement Pet Support Services


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.

Assessment and Evaluation


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.

  • Evaluate your shelter’s ability to provide solutions for every family that needs help.
  • Evaluate how often the family leaves with their pet and resources versus how often intake is the solution.

Success can be seen in different ways!

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.

More Resources to Implement Pet Support Services

Animal behavior and training are fundamental areas of knowledge that should be integrated into all aspects of sheltering.  Accurate education in body language of dogs and cats can increase the ability for all of us to make more accurate observations,  practice low-stress handling techniques, and increase fluency in the most effective and humane methods for changing animals’  behavior.

Learn how you can integrate behavior into the everyday>>


A crucial part of the HASS initiative is the collaborative effort to keep families together. When a community member has a behavior concern about an animal, our goal is to ensure the well-being and safety of  the family (people and pets) and the community, and to reduce the possibility of the animal being surrendered to a shelter.

Learn how you can get started with community-based behavior support>>

Find graphics, storytelling ideas, and ways you can support implementing Pet Support Services as marketing staff.

Grab the HASS Pet Support Services Marketing Toolkit>>


Increase funding to support your mission of supporting more people and pets.

Get the HASS Philanthropy Toolkit>>

Virtual care can enable shelter clinics to create an effective triage process and better support more pets and people.

Grab the Transforming a Shelter Clinic into a Foster Clinic Virtual Care Guide>>


Learn to have clear and effective communication between medical staff and foster caregivers and to help foster caregivers to feel like VIPs.

Grab the Transforming a Shelter Clinic into a Foster Clinic>>

Request Support

Request crowdsourced support from your peers in community-centered sheltering:


The following documents are free for you to download and use as needed.

Key Benefits

Build community engagement
Grow volunteer support
Improve customer satisfaction
Improve morale within shelter
Increase fundraising
Increase public safety
Increase the number of animals returned home
Keep more people and animals together
Pet owner education and support
Promote diversity, equity and inclusion
Reduce intake
Reduce number of animals housed in shelter
Support human health and wellness