One of the most impactful exercises in my social work training in the early 90s was a mini-simulation of what it is like to live in poverty. Participants in the training received a “paycheck” equivalent to one month’s full-time salary at minimum wage. Our task was to plan a monthly budget.
Back then, 50 weeks of minimum wage of 40 hours a week was about $8,500. The poverty line for a family of two was $9,190. Although it was difficult to plan even the basics based on monthly income, it became impossible to make ends meet when more hurdles were thrown in the exercise. A child falling ill meant making difficult choices, such as going without food to buy medicine. The math just didn’t match.
Food insecurity is not a new problem in our country, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse. It was estimated that one in eight Americans were food insecure in 2021.
Many families who struggle to put food on their table also have pets that need food. It is painful to know that many people feel compelled to choose between feeding themselves or feeding their pets. Financial difficulties can even lead families to the heartbreaking decision to abandon their pets to a shelter.
Pasadena Humane and other shelters across the country are working to provide support services to pet families in crisis. The goal is for the pets to stay with the families who love them, pets like Rede, Sophia and Chloe, the beloved Chihuahua companions of Pasadena resident Laura DiCesare.
At the start of the pandemic, doctors advised DiCesare to take time off work due to a medical condition that put her at considerable risk if she contracted the virus. Due to her declining income, it was difficult for her to afford to care for her pets, especially since Sophia suffers from a seizure disorder that requires daily medication and routine blood tests. .
DiCesare had visited the shelter in the past and was familiar with the Pasadena Humane mission. Knowing some of the Pasadena Humane team members, she asked for help and discovered the “Helping Paws” program.
“Helping Paws” provides a safety net of human-animal support services to help families care for their pets when needed. The program is one of many resources Pasadena Humane offers in our efforts to be more than a haven. Our goal is to prevent admission to the shelter whenever possible.
Since signing up for “Helping Paws,” DiCesare has received free food for his three dogs through the program’s pet food bank. Dogs were also eligible to receive free vaccines through Pasadena Humane’s low-cost vaccine clinic.
With this support, Rede, Sophia, and Chloe have stayed home, avoided a terrifying and heartbreaking separation from their human mother, and allowed Pasadena Humane to focus the shelter’s care on lost, neglected, and abused animals who don’t. really have no other resource.
The recent escalation in the prices of groceries, gas and just about everything else will make things even more difficult for people living paycheck to paycheck. Fortunately, many animal welfare organizations are ready and able to help, so pet owners in crisis don’t have to worry about how they will feed and care for their pets.
If you would like more information about Pasadena Humane’s Helping Paws program or need help with pet food, please call 626-792-7151 or go to www.pasadenahumane.org
Dia DuVernet is President and CEO of Pasadena Humane.