Historically, animal welfare work has penalized and even discriminated against structurally vulnerable people. Unlike our colleagues in human social services whose primary purpose is, for example, to lift people out of poverty, improve their mental and physical health, improve access to housing, food and support family reunification/preservation.

The movement to support pets in their communities recognizes the importance of the bond between people and their pets. It reflects the understanding that groups of people face barriers to employment, housing, treatment, veterinary care and other forms of social support because of their race, gender identity, and/or mental health status. In addition, it acknowledges that these social inequities may impact their ability to provide the necessary care to the pets. Furthermore, structurally-vulnerable individuals often live in isolation, with little social and family support. This isolation is exacerbated when they experience a crisis that requires the need for temporary care for their pet or financial support to help with a sick pet.

This presentation will outline the two program models that aim to support pets in the community and keep families together. It will show why this One Welfare approach is the future of animal sheltering. It will present data from interviews with clients served by our programs, and will demonstrate the importance of working with human social services, public health, veterinary service providers and our colleagues in animal welfare to ensure we are not only creating healthy communities, but positive lasting change for the pets and people we serve.