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Animal Wellness Foundation Creates Coronavirus-Related Emergency Fund Program


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The Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) has created an Emergency Pet and Pet Owner Relief Fund to help keep animals in the home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The fund is in response to reports of some people giving up their pets due to economic hardships.

“Just this weekend, a man who’d just lost his job relinquished his dog to us,” said Annie Harvilicz, DVM, president and chief medical officer of the Animal Wellness Foundation. “We can interrupt the relinquishment process by helping with pet food and medical services, which are the key costs borne by pet owners.” 

Surrendering pets is not inevitable during a crisis like this, said Jennifer Skiff, director of international programs for the Animal Wellness Foundation.

“Pets are family and the best way to keep them safe is to keep them with you,” Skiff added. “While we are facing uncertain times, there are options for people who are temporarily unable to provide for their much-loved companions.”

AWF officials pointed out that there are alternatives to packaged dog and cat food, and quote one veterinarian’s take on the matter: “When done appropriately, feeding pets our leftovers is fine and can decrease costs,” said Barbara Royal, DVM, founder of the Royal Treatment Veterinary Clinic in Chicago. “Dogs are omnivores, and they can safely eat a variety of things to survive. Cats are obligate carnivores. They need taurine and many vitamins and minerals that are only found in organ meats. Their food should be high in protein and fat and low in carbs.”

AWF officials provided this website as a resource.

Other options, according to officials: taking advantage of food pantries, seeking temporary help from friends and family, accepting assistance from a local animal shelter, accepting food assistance from a place of worship and asking pet stores if they have near-expiration food available at no-cost or a reduced price.

“This troubled time is not a good time to lose a healthy source of joy, or a creature who will decrease your anxiety,” Dr. Royal said. “Don’t give up on a beloved member of your family. Be creative, think outside the box, look for ideas and support where you can and don’t be ashamed to ask for help.”

There’s also no need to relinquish a pet due to fear of contracting COVID-19 from a pet, Dr. Harvilicz said.

“That’s plainly wrong and not backed by sound science,” Harvilicz added.

The fund is initially concentrating on animals and people in the Los Angeles area, but will expand to other parts of the United States as resources allow, officials said.

 

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