This Utah animal shelter is a safe haven for owners undergoing treatment for drug or alcohol addiction
By Zoe Sottile, CNN
A new program in Utah will provide short-term housing for pets whose owners are in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.
The program is a collaboration between Ruff Haven Crisis Center, a nonprofit organization providing short-term care for pets whose owners are in crisis, and Odyssey House, Utah’s largest addiction program.
The partnership was launched three weeks ago, Kristina Pulsipher, executive director and co-founder of Ruff Haven, told CNN.
For the most part, the shelter specializes in short-term stays, which makes it difficult to work with addiction treatment clients, who often have to stay longer than the 60 or 90 days that pets usually stay at. Ruff Haven. Collaborating with Odyssey House allowed them to “go beyond that”.
“Knowing that their pets are safe while they work for themselves gives them that extra sense of support to focus on their recovery,” Pulsipher said.
Ruff Haven expects to host about 10 to 12 customers through the partnership with Odyssey, according to Pulsipher. Accommodation for drug addicts, like all of the association’s services, is completely free.
The shelter opened in June 2020, Pulsipher noted. Although they have no plans to launch during the pandemic, “we opened our doors at a very important time, when the need was greater than ever,” Pulsipher said. “We saw that need was not being met, and we thought maybe we could keep pets with their families, keep them out of shelters.”
Ruff Haven was started with a focus on crisis accommodation, often for clients who were hospitalized or victims of domestic violence and other crises. Today, the shelter works primarily with clients experiencing housing insecurity. And in addition to providing short-term housing for clients’ pets while they work to get back on their feet, they also provide community pet vaccination clinics and other veterinary care for the local community not protected.
The non-profit organization provides crisis housing for pets, primarily dogs and cats, through a physical boarding and foster program. Pulsipher stressed the importance of the team’s “temporary foster homes”.
“These are people who really, what attracts them is that they like to give back to the community, and know that these are people in very vulnerable positions who could be them,” she said.
Foster families “take an animal into their home for 60 to 90 days, sometimes longer,” she said. “They provide them with all the love and care that they give their own pets. This gives the animals time to relax and not be in a boarding situation.
Clients receive videos and photos of their pets while in Ruff Haven’s care, so they can ensure their furry friends are well taken care of.
The shelter has served approximately 510 animals through their crisis housing program and more than 1,500 through other programs, such as their free vaccination and microchipping projects. Currently, they have 61 animals in their care either in the boarding school or in the foster care program.
Pulsipher praised the efforts made by its customers to keep their pets out of shelters, even if they are going through a crisis like hospitalization or homelessness.
“Our customers are animal welfare heroes,” Pulsipher said.
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