Animal Shelter Intervention- The Answer to the Question.


????? “If a person can’t take care of themselves and their family, why should they have a pet?”

When, Lori Weise (of Downtown Dog Rescue) began working with homeless dog owners living on Skid Row back in 1996, this wasn’t a question she ever considered because it wasn’t any of her business. Everyone deserves love & support. Bottom line. These people are struggling socioeconomically, but so many of them love their pets and want what we want — to keep them in our arms AND our homes. Let’s face it, it is a very fine line we are all walking between Haute Couture one day to hunger and homelessness the next. LIFE HAPPENS. Be kind and compassionate. We cannot control what the universe puts in our path; HOWEVER, we CAN control how we react, bounce back from it and how we PAW IT FORWARD. Meeting someone where they are in life’s journey today, in whatever situation they’re in, along with their pet (often times literally all they have), and offering them options, resources, solutions and an empathic ear is vital in order to truly make lasting changes in their quality of life AND the life of their FURbaby.

IF you’re reading this, you obviously care deeply about animals. We’re so glad that you do. But what about their people? Because many of these people are extremely poor; it can feel to them as if they’ll never get out from under it. Some live on the street, or in their cars, or they rely on food and motel vouchers to get by. These same people often sneak their pets into these motels when no one is looking, or hide them on the bus, or make the street-life or car-living work for as long as possible until they are forced to give up their pet. Yes, forced. Because the truth is, some of the families we serve make an income of less than $1,000.00 a month. Sometimes it’s far less than that. Whether low income or no income, the working poor, or “underemployed” population has one thing in common when it comes to their animals: if a single minor emergency happens, there is little if anything that the pet owner can do.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE: ???????? “How can we keep more pets in their first home, making it their FURever home?”

One of the answers is by helping pet parents FINANCIALLY. When they cannot afford it, we reach out to our VILLAGE of resources/sponsors/donors and pay for the licenses, veterinary care and redemption fees to help get pets out of the shelter and back home. The alternative, without INTERVENTION? Unnecessary isolation, heart break, depression or worse, euthanasia, of a beloved pet.

FREE SPAY/NEUTER: Another important goal we have revolves around making spay and neuter services FREE. Period! Even if the pet owner can’t produce documents to “prove” how poor they are. This is another way SHELTER INTERVENTION supports pets and pet parents. We believe that anybody claiming to need a helping hand (or PAW) should be offered it. We are, after all, on this earth to HELP one another and we are all part of the same RACE…HUMAN. So, let’s start acting humanely.

FOSTER HOME: Yet another method of assistance is offering to pay for short term boarding or providing a foster home for pets that belong to people who are in transition. We’ve seen it time and time again — someone is moving and cannot take their pet immediately. If only they had a place to keep their dog or cat safe for a week or two, this pet could avoid going into a shelter.

Lastly, sometimes it’s just a free bag of food every month that stops an animal from entering the shelter. Unfortunately many families run out of money by the end of a month to buy food for themselves, not to mention their pets. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about their family; it means they need a little help to get by so that their dog or cat won’t suffer in hunger. Without generous food programs, a person who loves their pets may feel that if they can’t feed them every day easily, then the shelter is the only alternative.

These are some of the many ways we can help people and animals at the same time. In our experience, they’re not separate issues. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a day when we can prevent every pet who has a caring family from entering a shelter. We guarantee you, when this day comes we’ll realize that we don’t have a pet overpopulation problem; we have a poverty problem. These people, who are often vilified for leaving their pets at the shelter, are worthy of our assistance.

We believe there are indeed enough happy homes out there, if only every person who wants to keep their pets can do so. Plus, if everyone who loses a pet and finds him or her at the shelter is able to pay the fees to be reunited, less animals will languish in kennels. Combine this with a robust free spay/neuter campaign (like we have in South Los Angeles) and we will see a reduction in the killing of healthy, adoptable animals across the board.

Perhaps we’ve struggled to find the solution to shelter killing for so long that the need to wonder if these people “should be allowed to have a pet” is the absolute wrong question. Instead maybe we should ask:How can we be a part of keeping animals in loving, FURever homes and keep them out of shelters?”

The answer seems so clear.


Dorothy Cline

Lori Weise, Founder Downtown Dog Rescue
Photo Credit: The Rescue Train
Photo Credit: ASPCA