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California Allocates $5M to Fund Veterinary Care for Homeless People’s Pets

California Allocates $5M to Fund Veterinary Care for Homeless People’s Pets
In commending the California state legislature's budget that sets aside $5 million to support organizations helping homeless people with pets, one proponent said, “the human animal bond is not diminished whether living on the streets or living in a home.” Photo: Shutterstock.com/Pixel-Shot

Based on press releases from the San Francisco SPCA and the Office of Senator Robert Hertzberg — California’s 2019-20 budget includes $5 million in grants to fund veterinary and other care for pets of homeless people.

Animal welfare organizations are applauding the California state legislature for including the grants, which are designed to ensure the state supports local efforts to aid people experiencing homelessness and their pets. San Diego Humane Society, San Francisco SPCA and Front Street Animal Shelter have been working diligently in their communities to highlight the significance of the human-animal bond for people experiencing homelessness.

The budget funding is aligned with Senate Bill 258, authored by State Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), which requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to develop and administer a program that awards grants to qualified agencies that provide housing for homeless people with pets. Senate Bill 258 passed the state Senate and today passed the Assembly Housing and Community Development committee. Senator Hertzberg tweeted out the good news:


Hertzberg tweet

Animal welfare organizations worked closely with Sen. Hertzberg to get California SB 258 signed into law.

“At least 9,000 people are experiencing homelessness every night in San Diego. Of those, nearly 5,000 men, women and children lie down to sleep each night on sidewalks, in doorways, canyons and alleys. Some choose to live in their car for lack of pet friendly or affordable housing,” said Gary Weitzman, MPH, DVM, CAWA, CEO and president of the San Diego Humane Society. “Those experiencing homelessness with pets have said repeatedly that their companion animals are all they have and give them a purpose and reason to live.”

“Homelessness is one of the most critical issues we’re facing in the San Francisco community,” said Jennifer Scarlett, DVM, president of the San Francisco SPCA. “How to provide veterinary care for the pets of those experiencing homelessness is a problem for many organizations. This funding will help make a significant impact and provide life-saving services to those who might otherwise go without. We are immeasurably grateful to Senator Hertzberg, the state legislature, and Governor Newsom for recognizing this and providing these new funds.”

“If we are ever to solve the homeless crisis, we must address the animal component,” said Gina Knepp, manager of the City of Sacramento’s Front Street Animal Shelter. “Pets are family, the human animal bond is not diminished whether living on the streets or living in a home. The positive impact on the lives of pet owners experiencing homelessness will rise with this humane and humanitarian effort supporting both ends of the leash.”

The grant program benefits shelters that offer shelter, food, and basic veterinary services to the pets of people experiencing homelessness.

According to Pets of the Homeless, an estimated five to ten percent of the 3.5 million Americans that are experiencing homelessness have dogs or cats. Unfortunately, many of those individuals refuse housing and forego access to services because doing so may require them to abandon their pet.

In Los Angeles, only six shelters out of 46 in the region allow pets onsite, while it is estimated that 25 percent of people experiencing homelessness in the region have pets. These pets provide warmth, security, and companionship to many who have otherwise found themselves down on their luck.

“Simply put, when we care for pets, we are supporting both ends of the leash,” said Senator Hertzberg. “This is a common sense way to quickly help people get off the street.”

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