City-run animal shelters have become notorious for euthanizing adoptable dogs and cats. Under pressure from city officials who are feeling the heat from constituents, shelters frequently revamp their procedures, processes and even turn over staff to satisfy voters, serve animals and stay within their allotted budgets. Yet what if the answer to the traditional animal shelter problems is not a do-over of processes and a change in personnel? What if we should be looking somewhere else altogether? What would you do if you knew that there was an organization that keeps local pets out of the shelter in the first place?This is where STARelief and Pet Assistance comes in. Since February 2012, the organization has covered $45,325 in veterinary care expenses, donated 17,683 pounds of pet food and assisted more than 300 pets stay happy, healthy and in their homes. A top-rated nonprofit organization by Great Nonprofits, STARelief understands that some pets end up at the local shelter because pet owners have to choose between feeding a family and providing veterinary care for a beloved pet.Working closely with pet guardians who are experiencing difficult financial circumstances, the organization prevents these animals from being surrendered. If you want to keep your pet but cannot afford to feed it, STARelief can help. If your pet needs veterinary care that is beyond your means, the group can help. If you are facing temporary homelessness and need to stay with friends or family members who welcome you but not your pet, there is help with temporary homes or emergency shelter for your pet. In short, STARelief tackles three of the main reasons for owner surrenders at the local animal shelter.Partnering with individual donors and local members of the business community such as Peter Suchy Jewelers, Sunrise Senior Living and North American Power, the group funds its assistance programs. Nationwide, donors have the opportunity to fulfill the wish list STARelief has created on Amazon.com, which allows it to ensure that its pantry is always well-stocked with the must-have pet food items it needs. Individual volunteers help out with the administration of the groups programs and with the temporary housing of pets. If an owner realizes that she or he is no longer able to care for the pet even with assistance — sometimes this occurs when a pet guardian enters a nursing home or hospice care — STARelief will assist with the search for the ideal new home for this pet.Knowing all this, would it not make sense to build up support for STARelief? The agencys work keeps plenty of animals out of the shelter. By cutting down on the number of surrendered pets, the shelter can focus on the animals that are brought in as strays or with injuries. This lets the shelter system use its resources for the medical care of these animals and allows more adoptable strays to become pets. So, perhaps the consistent revamping of the shelter system is simply a symptom of the failure to successfully keep pets out of shelters in the first place. Lets fix the problem rather than trying to deal with the symptom!Heather Scutti is executive director of STARelief and Pet Assistance, group of volunteers dedicated to keeping pets and families together during challenging financial times.
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