ASPCA Research Project On Poverty Problem

German shepherd saved through SIPYou’ve heard us say it many times before: What’s happening in our shelters isn’t a “pet problem” — it’s a poverty problem. There were many days when we felt like we were shouting it to no one, telling it to the walls. It’s human nature to get stuck looking at things one way, and we understand that. But we knew the approach had to shift, to look deeper, and we always believed if we just kept up our work, kept seeing the truth and sharing the truth, that eventually someone would see it for themselves. We did not expect that the great, big ASPCA could be that someone.

The ASPCA is in our corner and conducting a formal research project about this very topic. The ASPCA’s findings show, like ours have and continue to, that because people living at or below the poverty level might not be able to afford medical care to treat a pet’s issue (however small or large – or even simply spay/neuter), they often see turning their animal into the shelter as the only option. It’s a choice made out of necessity and in some cases kindness; not often out of carelessness. Their research also proves that given the opportunity to receive assistance and keep their pets at home, most families gratefully accept.

“… the shelter was often the first and only solution they sought for their pet, and more than 80% of those we surveyed were unaware that there might be support for them to retain their pet,” the article points out. “When the relinquishment group was given the choice of proceeding to the shelter after completing the survey or pursuing information about services that could help them keep their dog, 88% of them chose to pursue services. Yes—88%.”

We hope that these are the kind of hard facts that will dissolve judgment, and turn the wasted energy of blaming into the productive energy of extending a helping hand. We hope that these are the kind of hard facts that will keep many more animals out of the shelter, as we seek to do, because there comes a time in everyone’s life when a helping hand is a lifeline. It only takes a walk through the shelter kennels to see the need.

Furthermore, the ASPCA’s article states, “What we did find was a pattern of increased perceived stress in the relinquisher’s home, as well as emotional attachment to the dog—but an inability to provide the necessary care due to financial reasons and a lack of awareness of potential available resources. In plain speak, relinquishers loved their pets and saw relinquishment as the only solution available to them.”

Can you imagine caring about your pet so much that you leave them at the animal shelter because you want more for them? Can you imagine having no other options, or thinking there is no other way, and what it must feel like to walk out the door with your dog barking goodbye? What if instead a person could be […]

Help DDR Keep Families Together on #GivingTuesday

It’s been a good year for our Shelter Intervention Program, which continues to keep pets out of the shelter. People often ask us how we do it, how we empower pet owners with options other than surrendering their animal, and we tell them the truth: we try everything.

FirstHomeBy by offering free spay/neuter surgeries, vaccinations, and dog training; by giving away monthly food, fixing broken gates, repairing fences, supplying dog houses, and paying license or redemption fees at the shelter so a pet can go home. These are just some of the many things we do, and we’ve been able to save 5,000 pets from entering the South Los Angeles Animal Shelter since April 2013.

Our average case costs us $65 to prevent a pet from entering the South LA shelter. What a small price to pay to save an animal, and keep a family together. Can you help us do more?

With your donation to DDR, you’re supporting helping to make a pets first home, their forever home. If we can get 1,000 supporters like you, to donate at least $12, we will reach our goal to increase our monthly budget by $1000 throughout 2016.

$10 pays for a vaccine
$20 pays for a dog license
$50 pays for a medical exam and medication
$100 pays a spay/neuter surgery+vaccine+microchip
$200 pays for a pet deposit or a dog run
$500 pays for a medical crisis: parvo or broken bone

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LA Times Covers Our Story.

There are so many complaints about the media these days. How they cover only the negative aspect of every issue, how their angles are always sensational. But every once in a while the media covers a story just like it is, and we’re so grateful the LA Times did that with this one.

At the Found Animal Foundation‘s recent “The Impact of Poverty on Pets and Families” forum, I was not only honored to speak about our work, but to have our Shelter Intervention Program brought to many more people’s attention. It was exciting to look out into the room and see how much this topic has risen to the forefront, and to believe in the movement that might grow as a result. At DDR, we know that how much money somebody makes should not determine whether or not they have enough love to give their pets. A depleted bank account does not mean an empty heart. Challenging times does not mean you don’t deserve a dog or cat. It was my pleasure to talk about our real findings through our years of working with underserved communities and the homeless, and to share about how often we see people who are struggling value their pets.

To me it was important to ask attendees for more support, but it was equally as important to call on animal rescuers and activists to have more compassion. It’s easy to make assumptions. It’s easy to pass judgement. It’s easy to make pet adoption an exclusive experience. What is hard is to extend a hand and say, “I see you. What’s going on? How can we help?” I’m proud to be part of a group that does so, and to watch as this issue takes center stage. The more we talk about it, the more awareness we cultivate, the more we let go of the illusion that financial status makes us different. Then the more we can work to keep pets in their first homes forever.

If a pet is happy and taken care of, and if we can support families when they need the help to do so, why shouldn’t that pet stay in his home? I have many more thoughts on this in my book, First Home, Forever Home. It was a great forum. I want to express deepest gratitude to Found Animals, LA Times, and everybody who was there, nodding their heads, listening with an open mind, and fighting to do better for animals.

Shelter Intervention Program August Numbers are in!

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The August numbers are in.  A total of 95 pets were prevented from entering the South LA Shelter.  12% of those pets were dogs who were in the shelter, had a family to go home to but their family could not afford to pay the fees.  12% needed free spay/neuter and vaccination services.  16% needed to be re homed or rescued.  4% required a trainer to help them resolve their dog’s behavioral issues.  5% of the senior and terminally ill pets were sent to our local animal hospital where they were humanely euthanized instead of being surrendered to the South LA Shelter.   52% of the cases needed financial assistance. and referrals to treat a medical situation  Some cases were as simple as a rabies vaccine and an exam.  More complicated – hit-by-car or seizures.

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Every day,families bring their sick and injured pets to the shelter as a last result.  Not knowing where to turn, they bring their pet to the South LA Shelter.  Some think there is a low cost or free hospital that will help them.  Others believe that the only chance their pet has is if someone else adopts their pet and takes care of the medical needs.  Almost 100% of the cases that come in for medical assistance, accept our offer to help and follow through with the necessary treatment plan.     Proving that if you give pet owners an option other than surrendering their pet, they will take it.  

We want to thank our main supporter, Found Animals Foundation Without their generous support, we could not run this full time program.  We are grateful to LA Animal Services.  The staff and volunteers are a huge part of the success.  Working together we can offer the community more services and keep families together!

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Keeping people and their pets together

Thank you CNN for recognizing the importance of keeping pets with their families.cnn

“So many times people just feel they have to surrender their animal. It’s their only option. In reality, if they understood all the resources that already exist for them, or someone to guide them through the process, they are glad and happy to keep their animal.” Lori Weise – Founder of DDR

To read complete interview and watch the video, visit CNN Heroes here.

 

June Shelter Intervention Numbers Are Here!

The numbers are in for the South LA Shelter Intervention Program for the month of June. Drumroll please…we assisted 126 pets, keeping them in their first, forever home, instead of watching them be surrendered to the shelter. That’s 126 more lives saved and safe.

SLA-harley10% of the cases we assisted in were redemptions, meaning that somehow the family dog got out of  a yard, jumped over a fence, or wandered away from home.  In order to redeem their pet, families must pay shelter fees. In most cases, the family had some money but could not afford to pay the entire cost.  Our SIP program was able to pay any remainder fees, support these families, and send dogs home. But not without first addressing the reasons why their pet had gotten out of the yard in the first place!

4% of the 126 dogs we helped had behavioral issues, and the dog needed some form of training.  Despite our counselor Amanda’s best efforts to keep all pets with their families, sometimes it didn’t work out. When behavioral issues escalate to a certain point, or a family is unwilling or unable to commit to necessary management protocols, behavioral issues can be deemed too severe.  5% of the cases we focused on in June needed help rehoming their dogs, like 4 month old Luz.  Good news – she has already been adopted!

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2% of our families reported that their landlord had changed the rules and they could no longer keep their pet in the home. 12% needed our help spaying/neutering their dog or cat, and thanks to a grant from the ASPCA, we are able to offer this service free of charge. Lastly, 3% of the people we helped had senior pets with terminal illnesses requiring humane euthanasia.  These families did not know about any other option other than to surrender their pet to the shelter in order to end their suffering. Euthanasia can be quite an expensive veterinarian service, one many families cannot afford. However, we are so grateful we were there to intervene and give them a more humane alternative. They were able to hold their beloved pets in their arms as they slipped away.

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All in all, the biggest reason that South LA families brought in their pets to surrender them to the shelter was because of financial reasons. 63% could not afford to pay for medical care.  We see a range of people entering those doors, some in tears because they spent their “last savings” on vet care that didn’t cure the dog or only treated part of the health problem. Others have no money to contribute and know their pet is suffering.  Many times we’ve heard, ” I love my pet, but he is sick. I would rather put him in the shelter so he can get well and get adopted.”  The sad reality is that in most cases this would never happen at the South […]

A story of hope from the South LA Shelter Intervention Program

ChuchoLast week, a woman named Eusebia brought her dog Chucho to our South LA Shelter Intervention office, having lost all hope. Weeping, she could barely tell our counselor Amanda her story. How she got to this point. She and her children loved Chucho, but their landlord received a cancellation of the property insurance because Chucho was labeled a German Shepherd. She was given 72 hours to move or get rid of him. As a single mom out of work, barely covering rent and food, she was in no position to move. To make matters more complicated, she was battling a deep depression, suffering PTSD as a survivor of domestic violence. Like many families we meet, Chucho was their “rock”.  Sadly they all came to the shelter to say goodbye. The family had been up all night crying, thinking that they would never see their beloved pet ever again.  Can you imagine how that might feel? Amanda read the letter from the insurance company. She took action by calling the landlord and then the insurance agent to get more information. What she discovered was that by getting Chucho to be categorized as a shepherd mix, combined with the fact that he was already neutered and licensed, he qualified to become a service dog for Eusebia, based on some personal medical information that she shared with Amanda.

service dog logoBut we had to over come one more obstacle: The landlord wanted a letter, and the medical doctor was referring Eusebia to a specialist which would be a   month-long wait. She didn’t have that much time, so we sent her to a doctor we work with and in less than two days, her case was completed. Not only did Chucho get to stay with his family, he was now able to go almost everywhere with them. The smiles on this families’ faces was all Amanda needed to see. There are so many families with pets out there that need an advocate, that need help to get through a tough time. The Shelter Intervention Programs are now at the Los Angeles Animal Services’ South LA Shelter, East Valley Shelter, and North Central Shelter, as well as several County Animal Care and Control shelter such as Carson, Baldwin Park, and Downey.

The Shelter Invention Program is unique in that it creates customized solutions for families and their pets. Although it is a replicable program, we do not offer one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter responses. We meet each family where they are, and problem solve to keep a pet in a happy home however we can. Rarely are two cases the same, and yet this is perhaps what makes it so exciting. It’s a program that provides on the ground, real answers to questions that can make a difference between life and death. Just as Chucho who is still alive today, still prancing around his home, and still very much adored. It was our pleasure and […]

The #1 reason pets are surrendered: “I’m moving and I can’t take my pet.” But, why?

One of the most common reasons why people surrender their animals is: “I’m moving and I can’t take my pet.” In 2014, across the six Los Angeles Animal Services shelters, a total of 296 cat owners and 835 dog owners cited moving as the reason for turning in their dog or cat. The other most common reasons that followed were having no home at all (claimed by 20 cat owners and 72 dog owners) and landlord issues (245 cats and 955 dogs came into the system due to this problem.) Over the years, we’ve heard many passionate, animal-loving people say that these owners “dumped their pets in the shelter.” But I can’t help wonder — did they?

Please consider that many of the families that we serve earn less than $20,000 per year for a family of four. Consider that the average family earning minimum wage will spend 141 percent of their income struggling just to meet the most basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing. Now consider the choices they have to make — not necessarily that they want to make — when it comes to their lives and their animals.

Surely there is a percentage of people who never connected with their pet in the first place, and who should never should have acquired the pet to begin with. Perhaps moving was just an excuse used to surrender their animal to the shelter. However, based on our experiences at the South LA Shelter, this isn’t the case the majority of the time. We know differently. We see that most people do care. And they’re doing the best they can.

2 dogsPrincess and Bruno are a good example of what we do. They were brought into the South LA shelter by their owner in tears. He never thought he would find himself in the situation he was in — out of work, with poor credit, having lost his home, and with no prospect of a permanent place to live. Their owner was basically homeless when a generous friend offered him a room to rent, on one condition: He could not bring his dogs. Fortunately for this man, our counselor Amanda was able to find foster homes for Princess and Bruno, and with the help of our volunteers Jennifer and Mia, we were able to find them loving forever homes. We were all too glad to help. But the point is, if their owner had not been in the financial state he was in, these two dogs would have never needed to be rescued. They had a loving home to begin with.

According to Congresswoman Maxine Waters,“We have known for quite some time that there are widespread generational and systemic factors that exacerbate the racial wealth gap.” So why isn’t this income gap part of a larger discussion, especially when it comes to planning programs that save pets’ lives? Why aren’t we focused on narrowing the gap, which would benefit both people and animals?

Many of you, our cherished supporters, donated to help Nicole, her daughter […]