Who hasn’t wondered about the scruffy homeless guy sitting on the sidewalk next to his dog with a sign requesting a handout so that both of them can eat today? Maybe his dog isn’t so scruffy, and you think that he might be using the dog to get sympathy. Maybe it’s not even his dog. Or consider the possibility – the certain fact, perhaps – that the dog is his only connection to LBH: life before homelessness. And the connection is one thing that the guy just couldn’t see giving up when he landed on the streets.
According to data collected by the National Coalition on Homelessness, 3.5 million Americans are without a place to call home. Between five and 24 percent of homeless people, depending on which area of the country they come from, have dogs and/or cats – creatures not typically welcomed in shelters, but ones who provide emotional comfort to marginal folks in dire straits, with simple dog dna tests showing that a large portion of them are quite sick but the dog might be the guy’s only friend and companion.
Pets of the Homeless is a nonprofit organization that provides pet food and emergency veterinary care to this population of pet-owners in local communities across the US and Canada. Recognizing that every homeless person has a unique story – some have lost their homes and jobs, some have mental disorders, some are addicts or parolees or veterans – and believing in the healing power of companion pets, Pets of the Homeless is dedicated to helping people take care of their pets, thereby relieving them of the anguish and anxiety that they might feel by not being able to provide for their animal friends.
This is accomplished by enrolling veterinarians and pet-related businesses in the organization as donation collection sites; campaigning food distribution organizations on the importance of distributing pet food to their less-fortunate clients; speaking out on the issue of pets of the homeless and disadvantaged; funding licensed veterinarians and other nonprofit organizations to administer veterinary care to pets of the homeless at spay-and-neuter wellness clinics and at emergency veterinary care agencies (in six years of operation, over 12,000 pets have been treated through the program); and providing funds for crates to nonprofit homeless shelters that will allow pets sanctuary with their owners.
Earth Angels Veterinary Hospital in Wappingers Falls, assisted by the Pharr Road Animal Hospital, is a now a designated collection site for both food donations and monetary contributions to Pets of the Homeless. “Homelessness is still an issue even as the economy brightens,” says practice manager Robert Codacovi. “Those left in the shadows and on the streets with pets are in need of pet food. We’re asking the community to bring donations of pet food and supplies to our hospital.”
This is Earth Angel’s first year participating in “Give a Dog a Bone Week,” a nationwide campaign launched by Pets of the Homeless to raise awareness and generate interest in alleviating the suffering of pets on the streets with their owners. During the week of August 10 through 16, the hospital will be collecting pet food and related goods for the sixth national Give a Dog a Bone Week. Bring unopened bags and cans of pet foods and any other supplies that you’d want for your own Fifi or Brutus to Earth Angels Veterinary Hospital from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and every other Saturday; from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday.
According to Pets of the Homeless founder Genevieve Frederick, “Since 2008, collection site members have taken over 366 tons of pet food and supplies to homeless shelters, food banks and soup kitchens across the country. The need is great for communities to continue to donate to this ongoing effort.”
Give a Dog a Bone: National Pet Food Drive, August 10-16, Earth Angels Veterinary Hospital, 8 Nancy Court, Suite 1, Wappingers Falls; (845) 227-PAWS (7297), www.earthangelsvet.com, www.petsofthehomeless.org.