With help from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter provides financial assistance and services to help pet owners struggling to support their furry friends during the pandemic.
In March, the ASPCA announced its National Rescue and Recovery Initiative, a program created in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which provides $ 2 million in financial assistance to animal welfare organizations.
“In addition to the unprecedented challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created for people, it is also putting animals at risk by straining the essential resources of owners and shelters,” said the president and CEO of ASPCA, Matt Bershadker, in a press release. “Through the ASPCA’s Rescue and Recovery initiative, we are helping animals stay healthy and safe as we navigate this crisis together.”
The San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter applied for a grant from the ASPCA and received $ 20,000 in early September. The grant will be used to fund the shelter’s own initiative called Fur-Get-Me-Not Outreach, a program created to provide various animal services to pet owners who may encounter difficulties during the pandemic.
Director of Animal Services Jeanne Saadi said the initiative started as an idea of an animal welfare officer who noticed a need for assistance among homeless pet owners before the pandemic hit. hit.
She says the shelter noticed that homeless pet owners often sacrificed their own needs to care for their pets, so they started collecting bags with pet supplies to distribute. When the shelter saw how many people it was helping, he wanted to continue to reach out and see how many other at-risk communities he could help.
“The [Fur-Get-Me-Not Outreach] “We thought that if we could get this grant, we could help even more people so that we could prevent owners from going and keeping pets with their people,” Saadi said.
To apply for a Fur-Get-Me-Not voucher, pet owners must show proof or demonstrate financial need, such as food stamps or unemployment. Applicants may also be referred by another assistance agency to be eligible.
Saadi says she understands times are tough and the animal shelter will continue to work with pet owners to get help for them and their pets.
“Sometimes you’re not eligible for food stamps, and you’re right at the end of your paycheck and your paycheck life,” she says. “We don’t want you to have to give up on your best friend because you are having a hard time.”
The day the shelter launched the initiative, it was already distributing vouchers. Saadi says there is a clear need for this type of assistance; the shelter’s top priority for the program is to find a way to make it sustainable.
“Once that $ 20,000 is up, that’s it for now,” she said. “If there is a business that wants to sponsor this, or if someone wants to fundraise to continue, there is obviously a need in our community for this, and I think that need will just increase in the next year.”
So far, the shelter has distributed several vouchers that have provided financial assistance and veterinary care to pet owners in the San Marcos area.
Hailey Ambler is a resident who received one of the vouchers after finding a cat with a swollen leg and didn’t have the money to take her to the vet. She posted chat articles on the Save the Cats of Hays County Facebook page where someone told her to contact Saadi.
“It was scary. We didn’t know if [the cat] was going to do it or not, “Ambler said.” We had to have it [to] the vet immediately. We were afraid that if we didn’t, she would die. “
Ambler, who is unemployed, says she was relieved after finding out there was a way to get help for the cat. With the voucher, she was able to pay for a visit to the vet where she discovered the cat had been bitten by a snake.
Another recipient of the voucher, Ondolina Segura, said that since the start of the pandemic her working hours have been reduced, leaving her worried about how she might take care of her dog. When she discovered Saadi’s Fur-Get-Me-Not Outreach, she felt reassured.
“I felt relieved; I felt happy, ”Segura said. “I was able to get the care my dog needed, so I felt happy.”
Segura says she had struggled to afford the pet vaccines and vet appointments, but with the voucher she was able to use the funds to have her dog spayed, neutered and treated for a skin problem.
Finally, the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter wants to expand the Fur-Get-Me-Not Outreach program and work with surrounding apartments to help pay rent for residents’ pets.
For more information on the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter, visit its website or Facebook page. For more information on ASPCA’s COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Initiative, visit its website.