As families struggle to make ends meet or if they face a temporary health or housing crisis, they are often faced with a difficult decision on whether or not they can keep their family pet. During a rough patch, all many families may need are a few additional resources to keep the pets as part of the family.
“There are organizations available to help people keep their pets,” says Alicia Obando, founder of Pets are Like Family (PALF). “People should not be afraid to reach out to the many resources in Chicago. There are pet food pantries, low-cost spay, neuter and vaccination clinics and other services available if you ask.”
Obando founded her organization earlier this year as a resource for families so that they don’t need to give their pets up to shelters and rescues during difficult times. PALF offers pet care 101 seminars, food donations, and advice on behavioral training and will connect families in need with some veterinary services.
“We had one client that had a dog that had been losing the fur on his back for months but they couldn’t afford a full veterinary work up. I was able to get the veterinarian where I work to do the exam for free and my organization paid for the tests,” says Obando. “All this particular dog needed was thyroid medication. When there is a more complicated problem, we may need to help connect the pet owners with other options.”
The Animal Welfare League has a pet wellness clinic at its Chicago Ridge location that is open for services for those of low income. The Anti-Cruelty Society, PAWS, Tree House, Wright-Way Rescue, AHA and the Fox Valley Animal Welfare League offer low-cost services ranging from spay and neuter clinics to low-cost vaccinations and a few other services for qualifying families.
The Banfield Charitable Trust, a division of PetSmart’s Banfield Veterinary, also offers a “Peace of Mind” Program that enables hospice patients to stay with their pets. The organization also offers Wellness Plans and a HOPE program to provide veterinary care to those in need.Some shelters and rescues also have programs to assist families that have adopted from them.
The Big Hearts Fund in Chicago offers grants and helps people with fundraising if their pet has a heart problem. Other organizations that offer some veterinary support include the Helping Pets Fund from the American Animal Hospital Association and funding programs like Care Credit. Tree House has a more detailed list here. Often, families need just basic services to stay together.
“We received a call recently from a woman who had lost her job. I went to her home for a new client assessment and met this fabulous pet parent,” says Obando. “She had four dogs and all were up-to-date on their shots and had been microchipped. Three were fixed as well. She also had children. I think too we need to remember that just because people need help doesn’t mean that they are not responsible, capable people.”
Pet food pantries
One of the organizations that Obando works closely with is Tree House Humane Society. Chicago’s largest, cageless no-kill cat shelter offers a cat-behavior hotline and other programs. The organization has a pet food pantry for qualifying families operating out of the same location as it’s spay and neuter clinic at 1629 North Ashland location and at its headquarters at 1212.
“We have been operating a pet food pantry for many years. In fact, many clients have been with us for 15 to 20 years,” says Jenny Schleuter, director of development for Tree House. “It has been wonderful working with families so that they are able to keep their pets. I know how much pets mean to them and they are very grateful that we are able to help.”
Tree House, PAWS, Patrick’s Pantry, Lake County Pet Food Pantry and the Wet Nose Pet Food Pantry all offer pet food and supplies to qualifying families in their respective communities. Several traditional food pantries – The Irving Park Community Food Pantry, St. Vincent DePaul in Lake Zurich and the Palatine Township pantry (supported by Young at Heart’s Nina’s Pantry) and Feeding Greater Elgin (supported by Bruno’s Pantry) also offer pet food and supplies.
For people already receiving help from Meals on Wheels, pet food and supplies may be delivered to your home with your deliveries. The program is sponsored through Banfield Charitable Trust. Sometimes, a more important resource is good direction on pet behavior and training.
“Because money is tight, often a trip to training classes isn’t in the budget,” adds Obando. “PALF will meet with the families in their home to see how the pets and people interact and offer materials and training information to improve the situation.”
There are also occasions when families just need a temporary home for their pet. Several programs provide temporary foster care when their owners need extended hospital care or may need to relocate due to foreclosure, other financial issues or divorce.
Blessed Bonds, which now operates through A.D.O.P.T. in Naperville, offers foster care for up to two months and also offers other services. There are also month long programs – the Safe Haven Program from PAWS Chicago and SAFE from the Anti-Cruelty Society. Tree House also offers a program. Learn more about many of these programs in the stories below.
New Chicago non-profit offers Pet 101 to keep pet families together
Blessed Bonds: Foster network keeps pets and families together in crisis
Pet food drives help keep food in the bowl for needy pets this holiday season
The Big Hearts Fund: Learning about heart disease in pets
Wet Nose Pet Food Pantry offers help for pet families in Downers Grove
Elgin: Bruno’s Pet Food Pantry finds a home
Chicago Party Animals opens pet food pantry to aid local rescues