Animal Services Lends Homeless Help with Pets

A downtown event designed to help the homeless helped their pets too thanks to the County Department of Animal Services (DAS). The department sent veterinary staff to the Eighth Annual Project Homeless Connect event Wednesday and took care of about 130 animals.

The staff members gave the animals a brief check-up, vaccinations for rabies and other disease prevention (wellness) vaccinations, flea medication, microchips, treats, and warm coats and sweaters. Most of the animals were dogs, but they also saw five or six cats. Their owners were given coupons to help with the cost of spaying and neutering or information on low-cost or no-cost spay/neuter services. They also learned about good nutrition for their pets.

“Amazingly enough, the homeless people put their animals’ needs ahead of their own,” said DAS Deputy Director for Veterinary Services David Johnson.

The pets are seen as important family members, maybe the only ones, and the homeless will often feed their pets before they feed themselves.

As for the animals, Johnson says, they don’t know they’re homeless. In fact, their lives have been enriched by having a constant companion. Other pets might be left alone in the house for eight hours waiting for their owners to come home from work.  

While it would seem the lack of an address might pose a problem for microchipping the homeless animals, Johnson says the County animal shelter will use its own address. If the pet becomes lost or stolen and shows up at another shelter or community, the microchip will show who owns the animal and the shelter’s address. DAS will go to one of the local homeless support organizations in hopes of finding the owner.

Johnson said Animal Services plans to participate in the event again next year.