Never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Stacy E. Smith
A well dressed woman walks up to a homeless man and gives him a bag of fast food on her way to work. The man has been sitting on the sidewalk in the same spot for weeks, he looks up and says “God bless you.” The woman nods and walks away but not before she turns to see him open the bag and remove a burger, take a bite and give the rest to his dog. This scene is played out all over this country everyday.
It is estimated by the National Coalition for the Homeless that between 5% – 10% of homeless people have dogs and/or cats. In some areas of the country the rate is as high as 24%. In 2004, 12.7% of the United States population, or 37 million people, lived in poverty, and the numbers are increasing each year. Most people who experience homelessness (80%) are homeless for a short period of time, and usually need help finding housing and/or a rent subsidy. Each homeless person has a unique story; they are people with mental disorders, addicts, parolees, families, disabled, elderly, abused spouses, teens, and veterans.
Unfortunately for those with pets, it becomes more difficult. The
disadvantaged are most often forced to choose between their pet and a roof over their head. Most choose to stay on the streets with their pets for longer periods of time. They must also choose whether to feed themselves or feed their pet.
This shouldn’t surprise us after witnessing pet-owners willing to risk their very lives rather than leave beloved pets behind. Their pets are nonjudgmental, offer comfort, and provide an emotional bond of loyalty. In some cases, they even provide the homeless protection and keep them warm. The tragic part is the pets of the homeless do not choose their owners.
This week is Feeding Pets of the Homeless Week so I thought it would be a good time to highlight both the problem and one organization that is doing something to help; one in which you can become involved.
The group that took on the challenge of helping to feed these pets is Feeding Pets of the Homeless. The program was launched in 2006 and is meant to aid and support this enormous forgotten part of our society – pets of the homeless. Pet related businesses, veterinary hospitals and clinics around the country are being asked to collect pet food from their clients. Those that have already become involved have partnered with a local food bank who then distributes the pet food to the homeless and disadvantaged. The national program gives veterinarian clients and their staff a feeling that they are doing something worthwhile. Participating organizations are listed on the Feeding Pets of the Homeless website at www.PetsofHomeless.com along with the partnering food bank.
If there are any veterinarian offices, businesses or individuals that would
like to get involved and help, or if you need help, please contact Feeding Pets of the Homeless by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (775) 841-7463. You may learn more about the organization by visiting www.petsofthehomeless.org
* Thumbnail photo at the top was taken by Kristen Bole.