Empowering Pet Ownership: The Street Dog Coalition's Impact on Vulnerable Communities

Empowering Pet Ownership: The Street Dog Coalition's Impact on Vulnerable Communities

The bond between humans and animals is undeniable, offering companionship, emotional support, and a unique form of love. For individuals facing, or at risk of facing, homelessness, this bond can be a lifeline, providing a sense of purpose and stability in uncertain times.

That’s why Honest Paws is proud to support The Street Dog Coalition (SDC), an incredible non-profit organization, which stands as a beacon of hope and support for individuals who are homeless or facing homelessness, along with their animal companions. Through providing free veterinary care and advocating for the human-animal bond, SDC makes a profound impact on communities across the United States.

In a heartfelt conversation, Leah Picker, a Development Director at The Street Dog Coalition, shares more about SDC’s life-changing work and the impact it’s having on communities in need.


The Beginning: A Vision of Compassion and Care

SDC aims to provide veterinary care to pets of families who are homeless or at risk of facing homelessness, a demographic that often struggles to afford such essential services. “Veterinary care can be prohibitively expensive,” explained Picker. “Our street outreach model is designed to be easily accessible, breaking barriers like transportation challenges and lack of knowledge of available resources.”

Founded by Dr. Jon Geller in Fort Collins, Colorado in May of 2015, SDC has since expanded its compassionate reach to over sixty cities across the U.S. 

“It all started with a vision Dr. Geller had,” said Picker, “inspired by the pressing community need he witnessed. We set up our first clinic across from the Sister Alice Murphy Center for Hope, where twenty-five dogs and five cats received free veterinary care.”

She delved deeper into the range of veterinary services provided by SDC, emphasizing their focus on wellness and preventative care. “We offer core vaccinations, microchips, heartworm testing, parasite prevention, and basic grooming. These services are crucial not only for the pets but also for public health. For instance, Rabies is a public health threat, and heartworm disease is a life-threatening blood parasite carried by mosquitoes.” 


Transforming Lives: The Power of the Human-Animal Bond

One of the most compelling aspects of SDC’s work is the tangible impact it has on both pets and their owners. 

A notable story shared by the SDC team involves Chris, a military veteran struggling with PTSD, and his pit mix, Precious. Through the support and care provided by SDC, Precious was spayed, vaccinated, and became a pivotal part of Chris’s journey to stability, eventually leading him to employment and housing. This story exemplifies the transformative power of the human-animal bond, a theme that resonates throughout SDC’s work.

Picker also recollected another story showcasing SDC’s life-changing work: “Our Bay Area, CA team lead, Dr. Hilary Wheeler, was recently contacted by a social worker employed by the county. Their client, a young non-binary individual who was profoundly and completely deaf, had lost their housing and needed to secure a spot at a shelter that would allow them to remain with their beloved cat. The shelter required proof of a veterinary examination and Rabies vaccination in order to reserve the bed, neither of which was up to date. 

“Dr. Wheeler was able to help coordinate transportation for this pet parent, their cat, and the social worker to her clinic, where she provided a full physical examination and updated vaccinations and flea/tick prevention using SDC supplies…All of the care was free of charge. As a result, this vulnerable individual and their feline companion were able to qualify for safe shelter, and avoid a situation where they would be unhoused and unable to care for themselves and their cat.”

Supporting Street Dog Coalition Beyond Financial Donations

"There are multiple ways for the general public to engage with The Street Dog Coalition," Picker shared. While SDC is always in need of funds to continue providing care for pets of people experiencing homelessness, which can be donated directly through SDC's website, Picker also touched on other available opportunities for support: "We’re always looking for volunteers and community partners...SDC Ambassadors raise awareness in their communities in a variety of ways."

SDC not only provides direct services to pets and their owners, but also plays a crucial role in challenging misconceptions about pet owners who are homeless or at risk of facing homelessness. Contrary to the belief that these individuals are not responsible pet owners, SDC’s experiences prove otherwise.

“The people we encounter at Street Clinics prioritize the care of their own pets above all else,” Picker shared, “and frequently have stronger human-animal bonds than the general pet-owning public due to the increased time they spend with their pets.”

Through advocacy and education, SDC is changing the narrative and fostering a more compassionate and understanding society. “We use our social media channels to push back against misconceptions about the population we serve,” said Picker, “and participate in advocacy work as we are able to.”

The Ripple Effects of Service

Picker also shared how SDC’s unique model positively impacts not just pets, but the people who love them. 

“We operate under a One Health model, which acknowledges the inherent linkage between people, animals, and the environment,” Picker shared. “Pet ownership has been shown to result in positive health outcomes that include decreased blood pressure and improved mental health. By giving the attendees of our clinics the agency to take care of their pets, we also maintain the human-animal bond that serves as a positive touchstone in their lives.

“Dr. Geller has noted that people will get medical care for their pets before they get it for themselves, and SDC accordingly acts as a bridge and an entry point for additional services. During clinics, Team Leads mention that taking advantage of available health screenings will allow pet owners to continue taking care of the pets they love.”

The Positive Impact of Honest Paws Customers

The partnership between Honest Paws and The Street Dog Coalition represents a synergy of values and a shared commitment to enhancing the lives of pets and their owners. Through donations and amplification of SDC’s cause, Honest Paws is contributing to the organization’s ability to provide essential services and advocacy, and is a testament to Honest Paws’s dedication to making a difference in the lives of pets and their owners across the country.

Picker expresses gratitude for the partnership with Honest Paws, stating, “Every bit of support makes a direct impact on the services we provide. We are thrilled to have Honest Paws amplifying our cause and contributing to our mission.”

The Street Dog Coalition’s incredible work highlights the profound impact that accessible veterinary care and advocacy can have on vulnerable communities. By championing the human-animal bond, challenging misconceptions, and providing life-changing services, SDC is creating a world where every pet and their owner has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of their circumstances. The partnership with Honest Paws amplifies this impact, showcasing the power of collaboration and the collective effort to create a more compassionate and caring society.

Interested in supporting The Street Dog Coalition? Make an online purchase through the Honest Paws website and select ‘Street Dog Coalition’ as your charity of choice at checkout. When you do, 1% of your purchase will be donated directly to The Street Dog Coalition. 

Supporters can also double their impact during the week of November 5-11, 2023, when Honest Paws will double the amount donated to its partner charities.