Our cats and dogs add immeasurable love and joy to our lives. They make us laugh, comfort us through life’s challenges and seem to know exactly when we need a little TLC.
Imagine now that your best friend is sick or injured. You know there are places where your pet can be treated, but you don’t have the resources. You don’t have the ability to pay a veterinarian—and you likely don’t have access to a car to transport your pet. Meet the PAWS for Life program—designed to reach people and pets who most need our help and keep pets out of the sheltering system. Under-resourced communities do not have access to basic veterinary care, pet food and supplies and important information on pet wellness and spay/neuter. We’re changing that.
The PAWS for Life program seeks to:
- Expand spay/neuter services to reduce pet overpopulation
- Increase the number of medical and other services provided for pets, include vaccinations, parasite treatments and microchips
- Provide resources, including wellness information and pet behavior assistance, to enable residents to keep pets in their homes
- Decrease the number of pets that end up in shelters
- Create lasting relationships between PAWS Chicago and community organizations and individuals in neighborhoods.
PAWS for Life - Englewood outreach
In November 2014, we began piloting this program in Englewood, arguably one of the most challenged neighborhoods in Chicago with more than 49 percent of the population living below the poverty line and an average per capita income of $11,888. Before PAWS for Life, spay/neuter services were not readily available to this community, resulting in only about five percent of the animals receiving this important surgery, compared to about 80 percent across the country. The three biggest barriers to spay/neuter access were cost, transportation and lack of accurate information.
PAWS for Life breaks down each one of these obstacles. PAWS for Life staff and volunteers meet Englewood residents where they live, by going door-to-door, block-by-block.Through relationship-building and a consistent presence in the community, PAWS for Life is reaching pet owners who love their animals and want to do everything they can to help them.
On canvassing days, our team of staff and volunteers create direct connections with people who may never have been aware of resources offered by PAWS. We sign up resident pets for free spay/neuter surgery and transportation, and are seeing that 89 percent of all unaltered pets we meet are getting fixed at PAWS! We also help neighbors with medical challenges, pet care and basic training.
Our first Englewood Community Day saw 300 pets lined up for free rabies and distemper vaccinations at our on-site GusMobile. By providing vaccinations, we are helping prevent pets from contracting illness and reaching more people to talk about the importance of spay/neuter. On average, 75 percent of pets at these events are not spayed or neutered and most have never seen a veterinarian before.