Pets in Need Project Reaches Homeless Pet Owners During Trying Times
ElleVet Sciences staff members embarked on a 2-month journey through California to provide free veterinary services and supplies for pet owners experiencing homelessness.
As disease transmission and economic hardship forced most of the country to stay home, ElleVet Sciences co-founders Christian Kjaer and Amanda Howland decided to hit the streets.
“Right from the beginning of ElleVet, we wanted to give back, but COVID-19 and the economic hardships that resulted prompted us to accelerate the philanthropic part,” says Kjaer. “The need is now, so we wanted to help when it is most needed.”
That mission prompted ElleVet—a company that produces hemp and CBD oil supplements for pets—to create the Pets in Need Project, a 2-month-long journey through California that allows its team to provide free veterinary care and supplies to pet owners who are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.
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We’ve had a long and honestly exhausting week in LA at Skid Row. We didn’t know what to expect but found that no matter how dire the circumstances, people love their pets equally. We made friends, we met hundreds of pets in one of the worst areas of the country, as far as poverty and homelessness go, and left feeling that most people are good, and that the love of pets supersedes a lot. Here are some highlights💜
An estimated 151,278 people in California experience homelessness on any given day, according to a 2019 report.1 And studies estimate that anywhere from 6% to 20% of homeless individuals own a pet, potentially leaving thousands of companion animals vulnerable without necessary medical care.2,3
The team of veterinary professionals that includes ElleVet staff members and volunteers from local practices saw about 200 patients in the first 3 weeks of the project, which started in San Diego on May 19 and is scheduled to include several stops before finishing in San Francisco. The team is making the trip in the “ElleVan,” an RV that allows members to travel together and provide care as a mobile practice.
“We are seeing a variety of health issues in the field, but the majority of the time we administer vaccines, flea and tick preventatives, deworming, and general checkups,” says Kjaer. “We have seen ear infections, eye infections, and unfortunately a few with cancer but for the most part the pets we have seen are pretty healthy. It is a self-selecting group, though, as the people who seek out our help and stand in line are caring pet owners. The ones we don’t see are the ones we are concerned about.”
In all, Kjaer hopes the team can treat 600 to 700 pets by mid-July with the help of supply and pet food donations from Victor Medical Company and Annamaet.
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What an incredible week in San Diego with @balancedpetvet! We saw and treated so many #pets this week and saw such a strong bond between pets and their people. Dr. Tori is a fabulous vet and human and had tails wagging even when getting vaccines! Goodbye San Diego, the #ellevan and #petsinneedproject are heading up to the LA area for the next week to see even more pets. We will be at Skid Row much of next week where there is a huge need for veterinary care.
Kjaer says his experiences prove that the human-animal bond transcends economic means.
“One thing that really hit home is one person who told us that they have been on the street for years, and could have a home, but the low income housing places and shelters will not allow dogs, so he stays on the street. It’s extraordinary, and if we can do anything at all to help, this trip is a success.”
“We do not want to be a one-hit wonder and just come in and leave,” he says. “This is meant to be a long-term project and an integral part of ElleVet. We plan to have multiple RVs deployed around the country providing care and returning at regular intervals to areas of need. The ultimate goal is to partner with veterinary schools to have students do a rotation on our vans and have the experience of treating street dogs and cats (and also rats, snakes, birds and turtles).”
1. California Homelessness Statistics. https://www.usich.gov/homelessness-statistics/ca/. Accessed May 2020.
2. Cronley C, Strand EB, Patterson DA, Gwaltney S. Homeless people who are animal caretakers: a comparative study. Psychol Rep. 2009 Oct; 105(2):481-99.
3. Irvine L, Kahl KN, Smith JM. Confrontations and donations: encounters between homeless pet owners and the public. Sociol Q. 2012; 53(1):25-43.