The human-animal bond is one that’s tough to deny, and just about every pet owner will attest to the special connection they have with their animal.
But for someone who is living on the streets, pets represent even more: constant companionship, protection, a support system and, in some cases, a reason to live.
Paws for Hope, which runs a free annual veterinary health clinic in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, says low-income and homeless pet owners care so deeply about the animals in their care they will often do without food for themselves to provide what they can for their four-legged friends.
“Keeping them healthy means the world to the people caring for them. A lot of times, these pets are the only companion these people have,” volunteer veterinarian Shawn Llewellyn tells Vancity Buzz.
“The people we help show nothing but gratitude and appreciation, and their pets are often some of the best behaved.”
On June 7, Paws for Hope is holding its third annual one-day clinic to provide free animal examinations, vaccinations and flea and de-worming treatment for 30 impoverished pets. It’s trying to raise $10,000 through crowdfunding to ensure the animals are treated and can receive follow up care, no matter how serious their health problems.
“More money means more clinics and more pets getting the help they need,” says Llewellyn.
The clinic at the Triage Centre will see dozens of cats and dogs. Paws for Hope says one of the common ailments seen at its health clinics is painful tooth abscesses that can cause severe infections and severe health issues if untreated.
Executive Director Kathy Powelson says the clinic is often the only interaction these pet owners will ever have with medical help for their beloved animals, and they always have “so much gratitude” for the team of volunteers.
“The special connection they have with their pets moves us all. We also get to witness the relief of knowing that their best friend is getting much-needed care,” Powelson said.
“We all feel so good at the end of the day. Exhausted but good.”
Powelson is urging all Vancouverites to donate what they can to ensure every animal it sees on June 7 gets the care it needs.
Click here to learn more, and donate to the PetFundr fundraiser.
And here’s a look at last year’s Downtown Eastside clinic.