Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Caring for pets in hard times: Bay Area safety nets

We all agree that pets provide unconditional social support for the people who love them. When owners struggle to care for their pets, whether the challenge is buying kibble, finding a ride to the vet, or walking the dog despite an illness or accident, it's not just the pets who suffer. Not being able to provide proper care for their pets can be devastating for owners, who often consider animals their best friends or closest family, and the effects of the human-animal bond, whether healing or harmful, reach far into the community.

Fortunately, there are fantastic resources for Bay Area pet owners, as well as would-be volunteers.

This Berkeley group provides shelter, meals, education, and support for homeless youth, and goes out of its way to accommodate pets. YEAH! also sponsors frequent mobile veterinary events around the Bay Area.

These volunteers serve low-income senior, ill, or disabled pet owners in San Francisco, providing pet food, services and supplies to help keep pets in their homes, as well as free or low-cost vaccinations and spay/neuter clinics throughout San Francisco and the Peninsula. (Other branches serve Los Angeles and San Diego.)

SHARE (Special Human-Animal Relationships) provides pet food, vet care, grooming, and many other services to low-income Marin County residents who are seniors, living with HIV/AIDS, or receiving hospice care. The Marin Humane Society also provides information about financial assistance for pet owners and emergency vet assistance.

Volunteers are always needed to help keep these and other programs running. Donations of pet food, collars and leashes, cat litter, used towels and other supplies are also greatly appreciated. And of course, cash is welcome, too: in SHARE's "Sponsor a Senior" program, just $300 covers a senior's pet care for about a year.

Finally, if you know of someone in your community who could use a little help, whether that's a quick dog walk once a week, help arranging transportation to the vet, or an occasional can of cat food, pitching in could mean the difference that allows that pet to stay in its home. And that's good for all of us.

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