By: Suzanne D’Alonzo, Community Outreach Programs Manager for Humane Pennsylvania
This December has the Healthy Pets Initiative Team, the Community Outreach leg of our organization, launching Targeted Pet Wellness Services. “Targeted Pet Wellness” is veterinary care offered to specific audiences we’ve identified as in need of access to basic vet care for their pets. The end goal is keeping more pets healthy and with the people who love them.
If you recall, we’ve been providing pop-up Vaccination/Microchip Clinics. With COVID, these morphed into Drive-In Vaccination/Microchip Clinics, offering the same services in a different set up that provides social distancing. The Drive-In clinics are open to any pet owner in our community, and make the two most important vaccinations (rabies and distemper), plus microchipping, all affordable and reasonably easy-access. We offer these around town in 3 seasons of the year, and a generous grant from the Giorgi Family Foundation permits us to offer them at a pay-what-you-can rate.
Our Target Pet Wellness Services are geared slightly differently. When we planned the pop-up/Drive-In Clinics we of course considered the needs of our community’s pet owners, taking into account which pet owners would utilize those services. Then we took the next step, considering who wouldn’t be able to utilize those clinics, and why.
What community outreach programs all over the U.S. have realized- and what data has proven- is that most pet owners want to do the best they can for their pets. If given opportunities, pet owners make use of those chances to do more for their pets- if they can.
In planning the Targeted Pet Wellness Services we paid attention to which pet owners were missing in large numbers from the Drive-In Clinics. That let us identify the following subsets of pet owners: individuals and families facing homelessness, survivors of domestic abuse, and a portion of our community’s veterans. We thoughtfully tried to list what stops those distinct populations from bringing pets in for care. Situations vary, but that list includes facing a lack of the following; permanent housing, money, transportation, phone and/or internet access, domestic violence, information as to where to bring a pet for medical care and how often to do so, available time to get to a vet while during business hours, and even the simple fact of having too much on one’s plate.
For example, for a family facing homelessness, it may seem out of reach to find a veterinarian, book an appointment, drive to that appointment, and pay for it. Complicate that example by not having easy access to the internet to find and contact a vet, having car trouble, and knowing every penny counts and there are other more immediate needs pressing. Suddenly, what some of us take for granted becomes impossible.
Whenever a program anticipates where it may fall short of its intended goals and develop alternative options, the more likely it is to be a success. Targeted Pet Wellness Services eliminates hurdles. This program creates free, walk-in appointments at a location where those pet owners are already going for services. We are paving the way for more pets to get the care and services they need: that’s success overall!
We planned carefully to make these services the best they could be for this selected audience- but we asked for help with our homework: Humane Pennsylvania is partnering with regional organizations to best connect with those pet owners who are having trouble accessing pet medical care otherwise: Hope Rescue Mission (where we will be available to any clients of the organizations of Berks Coalition to End Homelessness), Veterans Coalition of Pennsylvania, and Safe Berks. They’ll help us reach some of the most vulnerable human populations, and therefore help us assist the most vulnerable pet populations.
Each month on specific dates and times, our team will set up in the parking lot areas of these organizations. We’ll provided to the pets that need them:
- Physical examinations for dogs/cats
- Rabies vaccinations
- Distemper vaccinations
- Intestinal deworming
- Flea/tick treatment
- Ear cleaning
- Ear mite treatment
- Sanitary trims
- Nail trims
- Microchip implantation and microchip registration
- Collar, ID tag
- Pet food
- Toys and other items as we have available (e.g. pee pads, litter)
No appointments are needed; any pet owners using the services of these organizations are welcome to bring their dogs and cats to our team as “walk-ins.” Every client will have a chance to talk with our veterinarian and team about their pet’s health and needs. The team will also be available to share basic behavior suggestions or assist owners in identifying novel solutions to issues they may be facing given what else may be happening in their lives.
Our team is really excited about the Targeted Pet Wellness Services. It’s stacking the odds in favor of keeping more pets healthy and with the families that love and cherish them.