LA County program helps homeless keep their pets as they seek housing

PALMDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- There are countless reasons and factors that contribute to homelessness. But for many, there's one very specific reason why they would rather stay on the street: they don't want to be separated from their pets.

The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control created a program in 2017 to try to help.

A victim of domestic violence, Yvette was told by a judge to leave her home for her own safety.

"I just grabbed my dogs and got into the car and started roaming around - just roaming," she said.

For two days, Yvette lived in her car with her dogs because she couldn't find a place to live that was pet-friendly.

By sheer chance, she came upon the Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control Facility in Palmdale.

"The gentleman that was there, he told me 'well you came to the right place'. He said, you're homeless and you got your dogs and you can't find a place to put them safe -- this is the place," she said.

This county-run program is designed to find options for people experiencing homelessness that keeps pets and families together.

The boarding component is the last resort because adding animals to the largest animal care facility in the country puts added strain on resources.

Allison Cardona, Deputy Director at LA County Animal Care and Control, says the program's benefits go far beyond just finding a place for pets to stay.

"This program really provides a service for the whole community because now pets are spayed and neutered, they're vaccinated --they're micro-chipped when they're part of this program," Cardona said. "So when they go into their new housing or go back into the community, they have all of these benefits already."

Experts say, in many cases, homeless people with pets will refuse housing if it's not pet-friendly. They will choose to stay on the street, rather than be separated from them.

But this program allows them to find housing that allows pets - all while the dog or cat is being cared for.

One woman expressed relief at knowing there was another option.

"It takes a lot of stress off my back. You don't even know how many times me and my husband sacrificed so many shelters because they told us to get rid of our dog, sell it - or just let it go or just kill the dog," she said.
For Yvette, the two months her dogs stayed at the shelter allowed her to find a pet-friendly apartment.

And even though she visited her dogs often, the day they left the shelter for good was very emotional.

"I don't have no way or (know) how to pay them back. It's just so amazing, that program. I could say it to everybody, try it. If you love your animals ... try it."

Currently, L.A. County subsidizes the program, but there are a number of charities that are interested in supporting the program financially. For more information, you can visit www.animalcare.lacounty.gov. You can also speak to a social service provider or a homeless service provider.
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