When financial challenges arise, families are often forced to decide how to best use their limited income. For animal lovers, that can mean making impossible choices between their own well-being and the well-being of their pets. Time and time again, Animal Humane Society Community Outreach Organizers have seen people choose to feed their pets before themselves, delay necessary veterinary care, or refuse shelter if their beloved pet can’t join them.
Since its start, our Community Outreach program has helped thousands of families gain access to low-cost vet care, pet behavior advice, free pet food and supplies, and more. The need for these services has grown immensely over the last year as families grappled with the impacts of COVID-19, making the work of the Outreach team more important than ever.
Doing more for people and their pets
The Outreach team, comprised of five dedicated staff, has been working on different project ideas and developing new relationships in communities where we didn’t previously have a presence in an effort to more quickly and directly address challenges households face in caring for their pets.
This work began in 2014 as a boots-on-the-ground effort, initially serving the Frogtown and East St. Paul neighborhoods. Over the last year, we’ve slowly begun providing aid to families all over the Twin Cities metro, and are planning to officially expand outreach efforts to Minneapolis in the coming months.
“We’ve grown our free pet food program, providing food to more locations so we can impact more animal lovers in need,” says Cassie Macedo, Community Outreach Organizer. “We’ve also joined several basic needs collaboratives and coalitions as a way to more broadly share what we can do to help pets and the families caring for them.”
Since the start of 2020, AHS has distributed more than 60,000 pounds of free pet food to families living in the Twin Cities — providing hundreds of thousands of meals to hungry pets. It’s a remarkable number, and one we’re able to achieve thanks to our longtime partnership with Purina and a generous donation from GreaterGood.org.
The Outreach team was also tasked with reimagining our successful, quarterly vaccine clinics, which at one time served up to 500 animals in one day. We now host monthly vaccine clinics at our University Avenue location in St. Paul.
Plans for expansion in 2021
The vision for what Outreach can achieve in the coming years continues to evolve. AHS plans to expand services to the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis in summer 2021, and is focusing on ways to provide resources and supplies to pet parents facing temporary displacement or housing insecurity.
“We understand that pets are family,” says Cassie, “And we want our community to know that we’re devoted to helping families stay together.”
As the Outreach program continues to build a presence in underserved communities, we’re inspired by what we’ve been able to achieve in such a challenging year, and are looking to a future where we’re able to do even more for people and their pets. This work isn’t possible without the support of our animal-loving community.