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Pets for Life–A New Community Understanding

A new report outlines how to improve pet health and reduce shelter overpopulation with community outreach

  • Loving pets is one of the greatest common denominators across social, economic, and cultural boundaries. Amanda Arrington/The HSUS

  • Many people in underserved communities struggle to provide veterinary care for their beloved pets. Laurie Maxwell/The HSUS

The HSUS’s new report, “Pets for Life–A New Community Understanding,” shows that increasing access and removing cost barriers to animal care and veterinary services for pet owners in underserved areas will improve community animal health and reduce shelter overpopulation.

The report uses data gathered from events organized by The HSUS Pets for Life team and local partners to provide free and low-cost pet wellness and spay/neuter services for people in underserved communities.

What is Pets for Life?

PFL is a program of The HSUS that employs innovative strategies and fresh approaches to extend the reach of animal services, resources, and information for the sake of building humane communities.

In difficult economic times, families can have trouble providing for the health and welfare of pets. With two-thirds of American families having pets and nearly one in every six Americans living at or below poverty level, it’s more important than ever to reach out to those in need with workable answers.

"The animal welfare, veterinary, and related fields must take this as a call to action."

Key findings

  • More than half—53 percent—of the owners of unaltered pets surveyed had never seen a veterinarian before. There is a growing gap between underserved pet owners and veterinary service providers and this has severe consequences for companion animal overpopulation and overall health.


  • The vast majority, 87 percent, of attendees at Pets for Life events had never contacted their local animal control or animal shelter organization for any reason. It is critical for leaders in the animal welfare field to recognize the unmet needs in their communities and the impact on companion animal health and overpopulation.


  • Meeting people in the neighborhoods where they live, and marketing services strategically using canvassing and community organizing techniques, is much more effective than traditional advertising in reaching owners of unaltered pets in underserved communities. Adequate follow-up is critical to build relationships and ensure that animal veterinary needs are met.

A heart-breaking struggle

“Pets are one of the greatest common denominators across social, economic and cultural boundaries and are a very important part of most people’s lives,” said Amanda Arrington, associate director for Pets for Life.

“Recognizing that so many people in underserved communities are struggling to care for their pets with little to no basic health care and wellness resources available is heart-breaking. The animal welfare, veterinary, and related fields must take this as a call to action and work together to ensure that all pet owners have the information, resources, and services they need.”

The data used in the report were taken from service records and surveys conducted at 16 outreach events in 11 markets held since March 2010 and represent close to 5,400 companion animals.

Read the full report (pdf)
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