How to Help People in Need Keep Their Pets at Home

Animals complete us, though not everyone wants the responsibility of bringing a four-footed child into their life. Those who do, however, understand the bond humans develop with animals. Sadly, sometimes our pets outlive us or our ability to care for them.

What if you’re diagnosed with terminal cancer or your arthritis becomes so severe you can no longer bend down to feed your fur-kid? Maybe you want to keep you four-footed friend with you, but living on a small fixed income you find yourself in a position of having to choose between paying the heat bill or buying Fido food.

The sad fact of life is many people end up surrendering their pet to a shelter if they do not have a family member willing or able to take in the orphan. This is a tragedy for both the pet and their human.

Sometimes senior citizens have loved and cared for their pet for numerous years and now the animal is growing old, needs more veterinary care than they can afford and have no one to help them meet the pet’s daily needs.

PetPALS of Southern New Jersey is a somewhat unique organization, helping some very fortunate people. Started in 1995 as a way to help AIDS patients maintain their beloved pets while facing what was then an ultimate death sentence, PetPALS now services pets’ needs for people who are terminally or chronically ill, or the senior citizen who needs more hands on assistance with their cherished dog or cat.

“We will forever remain a small organization continuing to help needy pet owners in the Burlington, Salem, Camden and Gloucester Counties [of NJ]” says Gail Fisher of PetPALS. They now service 26 clients with a total of 44 pets.

Services Offered by PetPALS

  • In-home Pet Care - Provides volunteers who can walk your dog, clean bird cages and aquariums, exercise your cat and change the litter box, or simply feed your pets
  • Pet Food and Supplies - Assistance is available for obtaining pet food and supplies
  • Veterinary Care - Has a network of partner-veterinarians that can provide veterinary care
  • Foster Care - Temporary housing and care for pets if pet parent is hospitalized
  • Pet Grooming - Either by volunteer or transport to grooming appointments
  • Transportation - Our volunteers can offer transportation to grooming and veterinary appointments
  • Adoptions - Assistance is offered in placement of pets when the human companion dies or is no longer able to maintain the pet
  • Education - A resource and referral network that can provide health and educational information, including “safe pet” guidelines to pet parents
  • Speakers Bureau - Describes programs and the issues PetPals are involved in
  • Long-Term Planning - Assistance is offered in planning to ensure for continuous pet care, and legal resources and referrals for wills and power-of-attorney documents

How Unique Is It?

A cursory Google search finds some — but not many — groups that will help seniors and the disabled keep their beloved pets at home.  A few offer free services and some charge an annual fee of $500 – $750 which may also include other household chores like yard work, mail pick-up, transportation to doctor visits, light housekeeping, meal preparation and such.

On Long Island, New York a group called PAWS (Pioneers for Animal Welfare Society, Inc.) has a program called SWAP (Seniors With Animals Project) that provides similar services and extends it to assisted living and nursing home patients that have companion animals living with them.

Dallas, Texas has a program for low-income seniors called SPAN (Senior Pets Assistance Network) that covers basic veterinary care and pet food.

The Humane Society of Tampa Bay, Florida has an AniMeals program for low-income seniors that delivers pet food to the home bound. They do not provide dog walking, cat litter box cleaning or other pet-centric services.

Then there are organizations that include pet assistance along with other household activity needs for a fee.  Ashland at Home, in Ashland, Oregon provides multi-disciplinary service options to seniors and those in need who prefer to remain living in their homes with the goal of individuals to remain at home age-in-place.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Are you impressed by the mission of PetPALS and other similar organization? Why not consider starting a similar group in your own local community? No doubt, there is a need for these types of services. So if you are looking for a meaningful volunteer experience with animals, perhaps you could put your heads together with like-minded people and start up an organization that will help people keep their pets.  Not only would the people appreciate it, I’ll bet the animals will give you some kisses and gladly roll over for a belly rub or two!

Do any Care2 readers know of other community-based organizations that are similar to PetPALS?  If you do, please share the specific  information in the comment section below for those who may be in need.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Michelle Spradley

This is what I call News! No one of any species should lose their home and loved ones just because of healthcare needs and money.

Susan Kilgore
Susan K3 years ago

I am so excited to find we have SPAN in Dallas, TX!! I had no idea.....was going to attempt to start a service to help local seniors but the work has been done for me! I have applied to join and plan to donate what I can!

Edgar Zuim
Edgar Z3 years ago

WONDERFUL. Animals really teach us what unconditional love is.

Carmen Baez
Past Member 3 years ago

How awesome! I loved the story and the fact that Petpals exist for people who need this service is amazing. Thanks so much for sharing!

Elisabeth Jimmink
Elisabeth J3 years ago

Great story covering a fantastic idea that I am going to share with some people who might be interested in starting something like this.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Great information on services available. Thanks for sharing.

Mandy H.
Mandy H3 years ago

I will be there for my grandparents dog when they become unable to look after her properly...granted that's only if I don't end up in a position where I'm unable to look after my pets (I'm facing a possible MS diagnosis).

Gail C.
Gail Callahan3 years ago

Is there anything like this in the Chicago area? Great way to volunteer and help both pet and human. GK