Social service agencies are always struggling to find the best way to reach those who need help and the same holds true for agencies that care for animals.
Animal Friends is hoping to reach thousands of dogs and cats in some of Pittsburgh’s poorest neighborhoods using a door-to-door approach funded through a $50,000 grant from the PetSmart Foundation.
Starting in 2014, Animal Friends will send crews into a few North Side neighborhoods to offer free spay and neutering, vaccinations and flea treatments.
“They literally go door to door and meet the residents,” said Kristina Hout, Animal Friends community liaison. “Also a really important facet of the program is offering free transportation to and from the spay neuter appointments.”
Similar programs supported by the same foundation in 19 other cities have found that 80-90 percent of the pet owners served by the effort have never reached out to a shelter or animal control.
Hout said it is not always easy to start the conversation.
“You generally say, ‘Have you heard about our free program for pets?’ because usually starting by any other way sounds like a bill collector or you are trying to sell something or you are trying to take their pets away from them,” Hout said.
The city’s free spay and neuter program will cover the cost of the surgeries, which will free up more of the grant for the other treatments and supports.
“We are going to be empowering people, giving them the tools to keep their pets rather than the only option being to turn them into a shelter or give them away,” Hout said.
Hout said most of the animals they find in homes are very much loved and not neglected but many of them are less than healthy and need a little extra care.
“Simple fixes that are just out of reach for a person that doesn’t have transportation, doesn’t disposable income,” she said.
Animal Friends has seen an increase in cases of fleas in recent years. Hout said she sees people who have to choose between spending money on a flea treatments and spending money on food for the family.
Hout said she hopes the effort will spread to other neighborhoods, even after the grant expires.
“We’re looking at the to be the way that Animal Friends ends the companion animal over population in the city of Pittsburgh,” Hout said.