One of the main reasons people surrender their pets to a city shelter is due to financial constraints, research shows. But thanks to Home Dog LA, the organization behind the North Central Shelter Intervention Program in Los Angeles there are other options.
Home Dog LA offers community-based solutions like low-cost or free spays/neuter services, medical care, vaccines, pet redemption fees, low-cost dog training classes, landlord deposits, city license fees and more to help people and their pets through hard times. By also offering food, collars and leashes, Home Dog LA is keeping dogs right where they’re loved and where they belong: at home.
According to Kerry Armstrong, director of Home Dog LA, the program was inspired by a similar one that Lori Weise of Downtown Dog Rescue started at the South L.A. shelter.
“She gave us the wonderful advice of starting simple and small, so another shelter volunteer and I set up a table with flyers for low-cost vet care and free spay and neuter options,” Armstrong explains. “At the beginning, we were only at the shelter two days a week, but we gradually built up funding, got a grant from the Found Animals Foundation to partially run our program, and we’re now there five days a week.”
With so many L.A. locals who need help caring for their pets, Armstrong’s job is busier than ever. The program helps more than 50 families a month stay together. “I wish we had more money to help with medical cases,” she tells us. “But instead of saving one animal by covering a single expensive medical procedure, we have found it makes more sense to help more animals by spending less per pet. It’s a difficult decision, but we have finite resources.”
Fortunately, people can see how these funds and resources helped a family. One of our favorite parts of the Home Dog LA website is the “Stories” page, where pet owners share the ways the program has changed their life. And for Armstrong, the benefits of the job come in more ways than one. “The most rewarding part of this job is the relationships we build within our community,” she tells us. “We’re doing more than helping pets; we’re also helping their owners.”
“Our first intervention story has to be my favorite,” she says. “The very first day at our little table at the shelter, an elderly woman named Josephine came to us, distraught, ready to surrender Lucy, a 12-year-old chow mix she’d had since puppyhood.” Once Armstrong found out that Josephine was there to turn Lucy in because her landlord was demanding a pet deposit that she didn’t have, she wrote the management company a check from her personal account to ensure Lucy and Josephine could continue living together. “Josephine told us, ‘What I thought was going to be the worst day of my life became the best day of my life’,” Armstrong says, adding “after that, Josephine would bring us homemade enchiladas from time to time, until one day, we got a call from her son telling us that she’d passed away and thanking us for making her last years happy with Lucky by her side.” The story of Josephine and Lucky actually helped Home Dog LA with funding and donations after they shared the heartwarming story on the programs Facebook page.
To stay afloat, Home Dog LA receives a grant from the Found Animals Foundation and accepts donations from individual donors and fundraisers. In October, the organization teamed up with the Amanda Foundation on a free spay/neuter and wellness clinic for residents living near the shelter. “We were able to spay/neuter and vet 200 dogs!” Armstrong says. Other events and fundraisers have ranged from Drag Queen Bingo night at Hamburger Mary’s to races that raise money to save animal’s lives.
Up next for Home Dog LA? “We would love to mentor any organization who wants to start their own program up at their local shelter.”
Main image via Home Dog LA.