22 November 2016

INNOVATE - Street Veterinary Program Helps Homeless With Pets

Elica Health Centers’ Wellness Without Walls program brings medical care to the homeless living on the streets, and in September of this year, they expanded the program to also include veterinary care.

(Elica Health Centers)
For the estimated 5-10% of homeless people owning pets - and up to 24% in some parts of the country - lack of transportation and cost prevents them from getting health care for their animals.

Dr. James Reynolds, recently retired from private practice, is Elica Health’s veterinarian on the streets of Sacramento, California.

While some may believe the homeless should not be able to have pets if they can’t care for them properly, studies have shown those with animals fare better than those without.

“They are loving companions to these people. They are their comfort, and their responsibility. They offer unconditional love. The bonds are very strong,” Reynolds told the Sacramento Bee.

In the first couple of months providing veterinary care, the pilot project has treated close to 200 animals suffering everything from wounds to fleas.

The goal of the program is not just to ensure the street pets are healthy.

Elica Health also hopes the program will increase the number of those willing to get help for themselves - hard to reach individuals may be more open to receiving assistance themselves when their pets are also being cared for.

Another aim is to improve the health outcomes of pets and people by preventing them from passing conditions between each other.

Elica’s team is also working to designate some of these pets as “emotional support animals,” which would make them eligible to accompany their owners into housing.

“Pets are an important part of the emotional health of these people,” Dr. Matthew Gibson, a family medicine and psychiatry specialist and medical director for Wellness Without Walls, told the Sacramento Bee. “In many instances, they will be starving themselves but make sure their animal is fed.”

The company believes the street veterinary program may be the first one of its kind in the country.

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