PAWS has helped community agencies integrate animal companion presence within their provided services.
Understanding the role of pets in people’s lives makes it essential to find ways to reduce further stress for those requiring their services by allowing them to maintain the bond with their animal companion.
This is particularly important for clients of homeless shelters, women’s shelters, homes for the elderly, and mental health facilities.
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Given the many benefits of pet companions, such as their ability to help ease stress, anxiety and loneliness, welcoming pet companions into shelters and community facilities offers additional support to their owners experiencing crisis.
Additionally, with over half of women experiencing domestic violence delaying leaving a dangerous home because of concern for their pets, offering a safe refuge for people and their pet companions enables those feeling unsafe situations to do so sooner.
First and foremost, it’s important that anyone bringing an animal into your facility understands and legally acknowledges their responsibilities when it comes to keeping their pet under control and accompanied in public / common areas at all times. We recommend animals not be allowed to roam freely in common areas or left unaccompanied by their owners to ensure everyone can experience a safe and comfortable environment.
Additional measures can be used to ease fears, like muzzling and/or keeping animals on a lead when in common areas to avoid any unwanted interactions.
This is a valid concern, but thankfully not an impossible challenge to address. There are a number of ways allergy concerns can be managed, including updating ventilation systems, designating certain rooms as pet-friendly and ensuring those with allergies are roomed away from those areas and deploying a comprehensive anti-allergen cleaning regimen to name a few.
Ultimately, it would remain the responsibility of the person bringing their pet companion into your facility to maintain the health and safety of their animal. To help ensure clients understand the role they have to play, a number of measures can be considered. These include participating in mandatory pet-care education, having all pets proactively receive parasite treatment, are up to date on vaccines, are spayed/neutered and the like. Explore partnering with local veterinary clinics who may be able to offer discounted services to shelter residents.
Additionally, it is important to ensure cleanliness is maintained to support the health of the people and animals in the facility. Animals in shelters equals more cleaning; this is an unavoidable fact, and to ensure everyone’s continued health and safety this must be addressed proactively. This is especially imperative if any healthcare is provided to humans at the facility, as more stringent rules on cleanliness and animal contamination will apply.
Some of the additional costs may be incremental, like cleaning supplies. While other costs may be higher, thankfully many of these can be offset through donations. For example, we recommend shelters be prepared to assist clients with basic supplies, including food, bowls, beds, dog bags, cat litter, leashes, collars, muzzles, pet carriers, cages or crates, treats, toys, waste disposal bins, and the like. Many of these items can be sourced via donation, and many areas now have pet food banks to serve struggling families, so sourcing these items may not be the hurdle you’d expect.