I want to share some good news with all of you who have supported DDR, and for those new supporters who are learning about our programs.
We opened our new office, called the Pet Support Space (PSS), on July 4th. Because the South LA Shelter is still closed to the public, except by appointment, we needed a space to continue to assist pet owners who have no where to turn in a crisis.
Our office is staffed with two counselors, six days a week, Monday – Saturday from 10:00am to 2:00pm or by appointment. We are offering all of the same veterinary services, and more by combining our Shelter Intervention Program with services from our Pet Resource Center program, including pro bono legal assistance, access to services for pet owners experiencing homelessness, free spay and neuter, grooming on site via a mobile groomer, and so much more. Post COVID, our goal is to incorporate mental health services, creating peer led support groups, and eventually mental health care vouchers for those who pet owners suffering from the effects of trauma, who cannot access counseling. All of our services are created to conform with the trauma informed care model.
Due to COVID, turning most of our work “upside down”, we had to get creative, looking for ways to keep both our counselors and pet owners safe. At our office, it serves as a pet food pantry, crisis counseling for pets who are extremely ill and / or injured, and a place where pet owners who feel isolated can connect with people who care about them and their pets.
We continue to work with LAAS staff and volunteers, who refer pet owners in need to our program. During business hours, counselors are there to listen and problem solve immediately. The way in which we provide services might have changed but our goal of keeping families with their pets remains.
In less than a month, our counselors met with 149 pet owners providing the following services: 3% contacted our office because they had a senior dog that could not walk, wasn’t eating, was terminally ill and required humane euthanasia instead of being surrendered to the shelter. 48% needed financial assistance and a treatment plan for a pet with medical issues ranging from emergencies to chronic skin and ear infections. 1% needed legal assistance to prevent being illegally evicted from their home due to their pet. 19% needed access to get their dog or cat spayed or neutered. 28% required pet food.
I remember speaking to a woman who explained that she ran out of pet food and was feeding her dog “people food” but she wasn’t going to be able to do that much longer because it would take food away from her and her daughter. By the end of each month, she was out of food for the whole family. Another elderly woman pulled up at our office, driving a car that looked as if she might be living in her car, seeking dog food. She was a returning client, who politely waited in the hot sun outside our office door for a counselor to come outside with her monthly dog food supply. When I asked her if I could bring her a chair to sit down in the shade, she told me, “No thank you. I will wait my turn, it won’t be long”. Sure enough, within five minutes, a counselor came out with pet food and some other needed supplies, loading them into her car. Before she drove off, she said to me, “Thank you all for being so kind. It means a lot to me to have a place to come every month for my dog.”
Many people that we meet, for a variety of reasons to complicated to list, are isolated from people who care. Pre-COVID, programs were out there, but with so many restrictions, people, especially people with pets experiencing homelessness are very isolated and often depressed.
We are grateful for all your continued support. Without YOU there would be no DDR. As a supporter, you are making it possible for us to continue to serve those most vulnerable pet owners. As I often post – #becauseweallneedhelpsometimes we all cherish our pets more than ever, no matter if you are working, unemployed, housed or unhoused. The love of pet is something that cannot be explained in words, it’s how they make us feel.