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Keeping Pets and Their Owners Together

Pets and their owners share an undeniable bond, with countless stories demonstrating animals’ loyalty and love for their people. What happens, however, when outside events, such as illness or job loss, to name a few, destabilize a pet owner’s life? Many pet owners experiencing personal crises reach the point in which they believe they must surrender their dearest companion. The East Bay SPCA’s Humane Advocacy services help pet owners balance the various difficulties life brings with devoted care for their pet.

“We strive to keep as many animals with their people as possible,” said Raquel Bernaldo, manager of Humane Advocacy program at the East Bay SPCA. “Not only is surrendering a beloved pet emotionally tragic for both the animal and its owner, it also adds to the volume and costs of local animal shelters that are already crowded and overburdened. Helping people hang on to their pets has a much larger benefit for our communities.”

Bernaldo, who earned her master’s degree in social work from UCLA, first noticed the remarkable significance of the human-animal bond when she worked with low-income and homeless clients in Los Angeles. While many clients were clinically depressed, even suicidal, their love for their pet was one of the few things that kept them going. Bernaldo realized that even in the darkest depths of depression, pet owners often put their animal’s needs before their own.

This resilient human-animal bond informs the East Bay SPCA’s Humane Advocacy program’s three basic objectives: prevention, intervention, and retention.

Prevention of contagious diseases and animal overpopulation starts with awareness and education, but pet owners’ urgent and basic needs, such as food, housing, medication, and childcare, often take top priority. The East Bay SPCA provides vouchers for low-cost spay/neuter procedures and vaccinations to qualified applicants.

People who do not have the resources to address unforeseen events in their lives and consider their pet a source of comfort, solace, and hope are the focus of intervention. After the Santa Rosa wildfires last fall, a distraught client, “Joe,” brought his ailing cat, Marcus, to the East Bay SPCA’s veterinary clinic. Joe and his family had lost everything, including their home, but managed to save their pets. He had contacted several veterinary practices about Marcus, but was turned away due to inability to pay for services.

“I didn’t know what to do,” recalled Joe. “We just couldn’t bear to lose one more thing.”

With the help of the Humane Advocacy financial assistance program, Joe managed to cover half of the cost of Marcus’s medical expenses, and, through subsidized supportive care, his cat was healthy and ready to go home three days later.

“Pet retention is our ultimate goal,” said Bernaldo.

To help pet owners maintain a lifestyle that includes their companion animals, the East Bay SPCA hosts a monthly Pet Food Pantry, a free pet food distribution program for qualified residents in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The Pet Food Pantry in 2017 served 1,577 pets and distributed more than 10,800 pounds of pet food.

“There were times when I wasn’t sure if all of us would have enough to eat,” said lifelong Oakland resident “Stuart,” who has a modest fixed income and cares for his wife “Jane,” a breast cancer survivor, and their two dogs and two cats. “The Pet Food Pantry has quite literally been a lifesaver for us.”

Despite the emotional challenges it presents, Bernaldo loves her job of helping people find ways to keep their pets in their lives.

“I feel so fortunate to witness the profound love and care that pets and their humans provide to one another,” Bernaldo said.

East Bay SPCA’s programs and services are made possible by donor contributions. To contribute, visit EastBaySPCA.org or call 510-569-0702.

Kimberly Low is vice president of development for the East Bay SPCA and a Certified Fund Raising Executive, or CFRE. Learn about the East Bay SPCA’s Humane Advocacy services, visit EastBaySPCA.org, email rbernaldo@eastbayspca.org, or call 510-563-4627. Shelter Zone contributors also are invited to submit up to five adoptable dogs for the accompanying Doggie in the Window, listed below.

Shelter Zone features a different shelter and rescue group each month. To contribute, contact Editor@BayWoof.com.

 

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Main article photo by: East Bay SPCA