WASHINGTON—Since 2010, the Humane Society of the United States Pets for Life program has addressed lack of access to pet resources in underserved communities around the country through outreach and support services to pet owners. The program operates in 36 markets, and has provided over 400,000 essential veterinary services, supplies and medications to people and pets who otherwise might not have received them. Last week, Pets for Life reached a major milestone: its 100,000 spay/neuter surgery performed at no cost to pet owners.

Amanda Arrington, director of Pets for Life says, “No one should ever be denied the opportunity to experience the benefits and joy that comes from the human-animal bond. Our program does everything possible to keep pets where they belong—with their families, by providing necessary services to keep animal healthy, including spay and neuter, at no charge to people in underserved areas. We are proud of the trust we and our partners have built in communities around the country, and for the collaboration with countless veterinarians and local groups that have made it possible to perform these critical 100,000 procedures.”

Through door-to-door outreach most every day, Pets for Life establishes a consistent on-going community presence and support, and provides a comprehensive follow-up process for every pet met.

A few examples suggest the life-changing benefits of Pets for Life for families.

Pets for Life started working with Patricia, her husband, their three dogs and five cats in Los Angeles in 2014 to provide free spay/neuter for their pets. In 2017, evicted from their home, they moved to a motor home with no electricity, running water or gas. Despite their struggle, their pets remain their priority, and Pets for Life continues to help—with medicine for dermatitis, antibiotics for an infection, flea/tick preventative, shampoo, carriers, and food. Arrington says, “Patricia and her husband are part of the PFL family and we will always be there for them to honor their love for their pets, even when we can’t help with the larger challenges they face. PFL has never viewed them as anything but a couple providing a wonderful, loving home for their pets.”

Granville, who also lives in Los Angeles, not only cares for community cats in his neighborhood but also supports homeless people in the community by helping them with food, blankets and access to resources. When the Los Angeles Pets for Life team met him in 2015 they were pleased to support spay/neuter and vaccinations for the cats for which Granville cares—over 30 to date. He recently built an area where they can go in and out as they please and stay warm at night. “It is obvious the cats love him as much as he does them,” Arrington said.

Betty in Philadelphia, a client since 2012, has become an extended member of the Pets for Life team, as a community ambassador. Before meeting the team from Pets for Life, Betty always helped neighborhood dogs and cats however she could. After Pets for Life provided spay/neuter services at no cost for her seven dogs and five cats, she found a true mission: sharing information on free spay/neuter and pet wellness care in her community. Arrington says, “Betty is responsible for introducing us to over 100 people and for helping more than 150 cats around her neighborhood. She now has her own traps and has standing, open spay/neuter appointments with the program anytime she needs them. She is tireless in advocating for both people and pets in her community.

In addition to inspiring similar initiatives by local humane societies across the United States, the Pets for Life model has been the subject of several studies and professional journals. The program was recently part of a University of Denver research study, “Race and ethnicity are not primary determinants in utilizing veterinary services in underserved communities in the United States” published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (Sept. 29, 2017). In addition, the work was featured in the Development Law & Policy journal (Fall 2017), published by American University College of Law—“Serving Pets in Poverty: A New Frontier for the Animal Welfare Movement.” (PDF)

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