Program aims to assist most vulnerable animal owners, pets

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published September 14, 2018

 Warren Animal Control Officer Lisa Taylor said assisting seniors and residents in need with pets has always been something the department has done when possible as a community policing function.

Warren Animal Control Officer Lisa Taylor said assisting seniors and residents in need with pets has always been something the department has done when possible as a community policing function.

Photo provided by Santa Burger

WARREN — Would you know if a homebound senior, relative or neighbor with limited mobility and resources was having trouble caring for their pets? Would you know when and how to get them some help?

In many cases, managing those situations is left to first responders.

Sometimes, it’s the Fire Department that’s called to a home after a fall or a medical emergency. Something seen or sensed by a police officer during a welfare check could raise a red flag. An ensuing visit from an animal control officer might be the best way to get a pet owner to speak freely about the challenges they’re facing, but by that time it might be too late.

“These tend to be our older residents who maybe don’t have family members, or their family is minimally involved,” Warren Animal Control Officer Nicole Fear said. “Maybe they end up with a lot of, mostly, cats. I’ve seen it with dogs, and as they age, their animals are aging. We’re going in to assist the police officers, and we have no idea how many animals are in there.”

The goal of the Warren Animal Aid Program is to help the city’s most vulnerable residents and their pets with supplies and services through donations, hopefully before problems spiral out of control.

Fear said an elderly resident could have been an animal caregiver at some point and simply became overburdened. She said they sometimes can’t afford treatment anymore or have no way to transport animals for veterinary care, leaving their pets living with fleas or without food. In some cases, Fear said residents could be caring for their animals better than they’re caring for themselves.

“They will give their homes to their animals before they will ask for help,” Fear said.

Ensuring at-risk residents and their pets don’t fall through the cracks when resources are finite or when an animal owner gets sick can be averted by connecting the dots between needs and available services.

“A lot of times, we’re there for other issues,” said Officer Chris Thomas, of the Warren Police Department. “You’re talking to them and you can see the animals may not necessarily be that well cared for. It’s a great avenue for us to report it to them (animal control officers), and they can take care of them.”

Fear said All About Animals Rescue in Warren is a great resource for the department and for residents struggling to meet the needs of animals. All About Animals, located at 23451 Pinewood St., near Stephens and Mound roads, is a nonprofit offering low-to-no-cost spay and neutering services and affordable veterinary care.

She said the rescue also takes tax-deductible contributions to the Warren Animal Medical Fund, which are used to pay medical costs for animals rescued, sheltered or assisted by Warren Animal Control. Anyone visiting the rescue can make a donation to the fund simply by mentioning it.

Those on the front line of emergency animal care in Warren said sharing information and managing situations early is as important as the donations, although both are needed.

“The dog doesn’t have to be completely emaciated and dying for them to call and say, ‘Can you check on Mrs. Jones’ dog? I think it has fleas, and I don’t think she knows how to help it.’ A lot of the cheaper flea preventatives don’t help, but people don’t always know that,” Fear said. “It’s not a top priority when you’re looking at, ‘Do I pay my water bill, or do I get (medicine) for my cat?’”

Animal Control Officer Lisa Taylor said assisting seniors and residents in need with pets has always been something the department has done when possible as a community policing function.

“We’ve always done what we can to help residents in need with their pets, with food and with the basic — and some of the not-so-basic — medical stuff,” Taylor said. “We’ve helped people who don’t have a vehicle to transport their animals to the vet. We’ve also needed to help people dealing with their animal’s end-of-life issues.

“We’ve always done that, but we’re trying to get the word out there and to collect donations of food and money so we can do more, because the needs seem to be increasing,” Taylor said.

If you are a senior or know of someone in need of assistance with a pet, or if you wish to make a donation of food or cash, you can find out more about the Warren Animal Aid Program by calling (586) 574-4806.