Four-legged friends belonging to people experiencing homelessness and poverty received special care and attention during a pop up street clinic right outside of downtown Nashville.
The event, hosted by The Street Dog Coalition, the Southern Alliance for People and Animal Welfare (SAFPAW) and Open Table Nashville, was held Sept. 12 in the parking lot of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church on Woodland Street.
Services offered at the event for dogs and cats included exams, vaccinations, parasite treatment and treatment for minor medical problems. Vouchers were available for free spay and neutering services at a local vet, and free medication and pet food were available.
“We know how important pets are to homeless people. It’s a really important part of their lives,” said veterinarian Jon Geller, founder of The Street Dog Coalition. The nonprofit, started in 2015 in Fort Collins, Colo., provides free medical care and services to pets of people experiencing homelessness. Events like the one in Nashville are held all over the country, says Geller, who was brought to town for a veterinary convention at the Opryland Hotel. He coordinated with SAFPAW to plan the event, and other veterinarians at the conference also donated their time at the clinic.
“Our number one goal is to make sure all these pets are vaccinated for rabies,” Geller said. “Number two, we’re vaccinating for other diseases. We’re also preventing them from getting heartworms and other parasites.”
Geller explained that pets provide protection and companionship for people living on the streets.
“The pets are living really good lives – for the most part – living outside 24 hours,” he said. “There’s a lot of good things about that relationship.”
SAFPAW regularly provides free veterinary care and supplies to pets belonging to people experiencing homelessness in Nashville. The organization on average delivers 8,320 pounds of kibble a year.
“No dog or cat should go without vet care just because their owners cannot afford it, especially if it’s in our reach to provide it for them,” SAFPAW founder Laurie Green said. “To be able to team up with The Street Dog Coalition, it’s just one more tool to help the dogs that live with not only people who are homeless, but with people who live in poverty.”
Green added that taking care of pets living with owners on the streets is “less taxing” on animal control because her organization has been assisting them first.
Open Table Nashville, a nonprofit that works with people experiencing homelessness, provided a foot washing clinic and free food for the event.
For those looking to help pets belonging to people experiencing homelessness, Green said financial donations enable SAFPAW to spread the money where it is needed. She added that the organization is always accepting donations of dry dog food. Visit www.safpaw.org for more information.
Additional information about The Street Dog Coalition can be found here.