Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's about helping pets AND people...

So many times I hear people being chastised because they surrendered their pet(s) to a shelter when they no longer could provide care. I hear comments like "I would NEVER do that" or "They should not be allowed to have pets in the first place". While I agree that there are many invalid reasons (moving, dog being too old, just don't feel like having a pet anymore) that owners use to drop off their pets, there are just as many loving, caring pet parents that are truly at a loss and have no other choice. 

Today, for example, as I woke up to scroll through my facebook newsfeed, one post in particular really stood out to me and absolutely made me stop for a second to think about what my friend had said. This friend's name is Patty and she may just be the hardest working woman in animal welfare today. You see, Patty runs the PASS hotline for Austin Pets Alive. 
Two dogs that the PASS hotline is
currently helping.

The PASS Program (Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender) reaches out to individuals who are considering surrendering their pets to a shelter. This program literally stops individuals from walking into the shelter intake area by simply talking to the families in a non-judgmental environment and discovering the reasons behind surrendering their pet.

I'm not saying that 100% of the people stopped are willing to reconsider, there are still many owner surrenders, but the PASS program and Patty's dedication has made a huge impact on our city shelter's owner surrender numbers as well as making a huge impact on people's lives. 

The post this morning brought up a few examples of the wonderful and sometimes heartbreaking work that Patty dedicates herself to. Last week, a low-income family reached out to Patty because their small Chihuahua had an intestinal blockage. The family truly did not have the resources to pay for the medical emergency and despite visiting three different  low-cost Veterinarians in the area, not even one was willing to do a payment plan with this family and each turned the family away. On the owner's final attempt to take her beloved family pet to the city shelter, where at least he would be seen by a Veterinarian,  her little Chihuahua died in the car on the way. 

Hematoma on the ear of one pet the PASS program
is trying to help.
Patty is currently working with multiple families to keep their pets out of the shelter. One in particular has a medical issue, a large, painful hematoma on the pet's ear. The family, unfortunately is living paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford the added expense, so shelter surrender was, what they thought, their only choice. Patty is now raising funds to help cover the cost of treatment for their pet so they can keep their sweet pooch at home. 

Stories like these happen every day in Austin, and all over the country. People truly just don't have an alternative or they don't know where to go to get help and because of that, they choose shelter surrender. Sometimes, it's as simple as a family member lost their job and they cannot afford dog food. Sometimes they cannot find pet-friendly housing. Whatever the reason is for surrendering, Patty is on a mission to help not only the pets, but the people who need it most. 

Surrendering an animal to a shelter is a hard decision and one that many families will want to avoid if given the opportunity. Before you criticize that friend who is thinking of surrendering, be sure to reach out to them and look past your own feelings. By offering help vs judging, you really could be saving a life.

The PASS hotline is just one of the many amazing pieces to the Austin Pet's Alive program. If you would like to donate to the PASS program specifically, please visit their donation website (click here). Even $5 can go a long way in helping a struggling family keep their furry family members at home.

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art

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