The therapeutic benefits of pets for older people is a well-known fact – pets have been attributed with lowering blood pressure and stress levels, staving off depression and helping those concerned with the future to instead focus on the positives in their day-to-day lives.
Because of these reasons, we at SelectCare Home Care are happy to help clients care for their furry, finned or feathered friends, as well as their own needs.
Unfortunately, not all home care services provide pet care, nor do all older pet owners receive home care services frequently enough to stay on top of their pet’s needs. That’s why I was so happy to learn about PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support), a non-profit volunteer organization that helps older adults care for their pets if they are no longer able to do so on their own.
Below is a rundown with all the important information you need to know before calling on PAWS, either to assist an older pet owner or to become a volunteer yourself.
Established in 2009, PAWS volunteers have dedicated more than 20,000 hours of their time performing 40,000 visits across the five boroughs of New York City. PAWS’ official motto is “Helping people by helping pets” and is dedicated to preserving the bond between pet and owner regardless of physical or financial limitations.
Who They Help
PAWS serves pet owners who meet the following criteria: Are age 60 or older (or suffer from a temporary or permanent illness or disability), are having a hard time caring for their pet on their own, are in need of ongoing pet care services, live in New York City and have a gross monthly income of less than $1,850.
Herman stressed that all volunteers are trained and vetted before they visit a client. Applicants are trained in PAWS policy and procedure and undergo background and reference checks before they begin making visits.
Because the interaction between pet owner and house call volunteer is such an important social activity for clients, new volunteers are usually asked to volunteer a minimum of one hour of their time per week for at least six months.
How PAWS Helps
PAWS provides pet owners with five major services: the PAWS Housecall Program, Pet Pantry, Foster and Emergency Care Program, Veterinary Care Program, and PAWS Referral Network.
Housecall Program – More than 1,000 volunteers currently participate in the housecall program. In this program, volunteers visit a client’s home to assist them with the day-to-day needs of their pet, including dog walking, litter cleaning, administering medicine, transportation to and from vet appointments, delivery of pet supplies and light grooming. Historically, dog walking assistance has seen the greatest demand, with about 85 percent of volunteers’ time dedicated to walks.
PAWS Founder Rachel Herman says dog walking services are of particular importance during the cold winter months, when ice and snow can greatly increase the chances of a pet owner experiencing a slip and fall accident.
Foster and Emergency Care Program – Through this program, PAWS is able to provide temporary foster care for pets in the event their owner is hospitalized, giving clients the assurance that their pets are in good hands and allowing them to focus on making a full recovery. Herman added that many clients will outright refuse to be hospitalized until they are certain their pets will be cared for in their absence.
Pet Pantry – Much like a traditional food pantry, but with a housecall twist – PAWS accepts pet food donations and delivers those supplies to the homes of their clients, a lifesaver for those on fixed incomes or unable to haul 20+ pound bags of food home from their local shop.
Veterinary Care Program- PAWS provides pets with wellness checks, vaccinations and, when financially possible, emergency medical assistance through a network of veterinarians partnered with PAWS.
Referral Network – Although PAWS focuses on caring for their client’s pets, the organization maintains a lengthy list of low-cost and free human-focused resources if a client is struggling on their own.
What happens to a pet if their owner passes away?
Before beginning services, PAWS asks new clients if they have made arrangements should something happen to them. Because many clients have small social circles, many PAWS clients rely on the organization’s help to re-home their pets should they pass away.
If there is no plan in place, PAWS relies on a network of volunteers, supporters and social media networks to re-home pets. To date, the organization has successfully found a home for every pet in this situation.
For Herman and her team, helping older pet owners is about more than caring for dogs and cats, it’s a way to ensure their owners live the happiest, most fulfilling lives possible.
“For our clients, their pet is often their sole companion and reason for waking up each day.” Herman wrote in a recent email exchange. “When talking about his dog, an 89 year-old client told us, ‘He’s the greatest anti-depressant you could imagine. He means everything to my life.’ It is this important relationship that we work so hard to protect each and every day. We are so proud to play a role in helping our fellow New Yorkers and their pets live longer, happier and healthier lives.”
To learn more about PAWS, volunteering or referring someone for services, please visit www.PAWSNY.org