County Program Supports, Educates Clients Struggling to Maintain Pet Ownership

Helping animals has long been the mission of the Carver-Scott Humane Society (CSHS), but it took a more proactive approach when it launched the Fur Keeps program in December 2016. It’s now the first step in the pet surrender process, offering resources and other options, including a donor-funded emergency fund for income-qualified clients.

CSHS executive director Mandi Wyman says a big hurdle for her team has been eliminating the misconception “that all people considering surrender are bad people—that if we don’t help, those animals will be dumped in a field somewhere. It’s just not true,” Wyman says.

While humane societies across the country used to be largely shelter-based, most of them are moving to foster-based rehoming, and there’s been a decrease in euthanasia. CSHS has room for just 12 cats and relies on fosters if dogs absolutely need them. “The goal is to euthanize as few adoptable animals as possible, and just like people, pets have a limited capacity to manage the stress of living in a shelter,” Wyman says.

“It’s such a learning process—it’s been a different situation with every single person so far,” says Emily Rohady, a veterinary technician, pet owner and volunteer Fur Keeps manager. According to Rohady, over 20 clients had been helped by Fur Keeps by the start of this year. One woman needed to find new homes for her pets because she was moving to an apartment that didn’t allow them. Rohady made sure the pets received proper care.

Rohady also offers ways to find cheaper prescription pet foods online, suggests lower-cost clinics like partners Peace of Mind and ValueCare, and offers other resources. “I’m kind of the mode of triage right now,” she says.

While there are some situations—a serious diagnosis or other extenuating circumstance—where a pet owner legitimately needs to surrender a pet, Wyman and Rohady have found that many just need a little help. Most often, keeping a pet can be the best thing for all involved. “People love their pets, even if they can’t afford vet care—we want to do everything we can to keep that bond intact,” Rohady says. “We want to prevent people from feeling like surrender is their only option, that there’s nowhere to turn.”

Johanna DeBuhr contacted CSHS about surrendering her senior cats George and Chloe because caring for them was becoming exhausting. “They are my pals, though, and my most comforting friends,” says DeBuhr, who was told by several veterinarians that her cats needed a special (read: expensive) diet and additional necessities.

Fur Keeps arranged for the cats to receive examinations through ValueCare. “I was impressed with their genuine staff, and they seemed to have an abundance of care for George and Chloe,” DeBuhr says. “They confirmed that my cats were healthy and that they just had behavior issues.” Tips for caring for her cats gave DeBuhr confidence and peace of mind. “It really feels like George and Chloe's lives were saved, and life is much more peaceful for our entire family,” she says.

While clients’ situations vary, Rohady says they’ve had one thing in common—“Everyone has been so grateful,” she says.