By: Kasey Halbleib
We all know that pets can connect with humans and magic almost always ensues. Whether that be from the healing element of emotional, mental or physical connection, it is powerful and if you’ve experienced this with a pet in your life, you probably can’t imagine having them be taken away from you. But that is what happens to many senior and or disabled citizens who struggle to take care of, keep up and provide for the pet in their life.
That’s where PAWS NY comes into play. The volunteer-based organization was started by Rachel Herman. While she was living in New York City she would frequently pass by an elderly couple with their dog on the street, who were obviously struggling to support themselves and their pet. She would give them a hand whenever she saw them, whether that be with food or money she was able to put together. As this evolved into a pattern, she could not help but think that this was not an isolated situation. After conducting some research, she found that there was a gap in the non-profit community when it came to vulnerable pet owners. And so PAWS NY was born in 2008.
The acronym stands for Pets Are Wonderful Support and that is exactly what the organization stands behind. It is no doubt that people of older age and those with disabilities may face certain insecurities and sometimes pet ownership can exacerbate such situations. When the need for physical activity is still present in the pet(s), it can become more difficult, and even dangerous for some older individuals to take on that responsibility.
While PAWS NY does not provide resources monetarily, they help to ease certain burdens that are plagued with dollar signs. It would be an understatement to say that pets are an expense. Between the funds needed for food, medication, vet check-ups, grooming and more, it can lead to an individual struggling to keep up with the costs, not just those who face adversity but everyone.
It is important to underscore the fact that humans are not the only ones benefiting from this organization. Relinquishing ownership can be rather traumatic for the pet. It can lead to behavioral issues, depression, and an unstable environment. And when it comes to older folks, taking care of pets has yielded improvements in memory, has afforded them companionship, and helps to relieve stress.
PAWS NY comes to the rescue with these, all too common, problems. Since the element of aging is never going away, PAWS NY will always be a much-needed organization, especially in a large and populated city like New York. The basic premise of this group is to support and help out elderly and or disabled folks who are no longer able to provide physically for their pet. With on-site visits they lend a hand when it comes to walks, feeding, medication, clean-ups, and more maintenance related to pet care. By giving these services, both the human and the pet are able to maintain their connection—safely and happily.
PAWS NY has helped over 900 senior citizens keep their pets and have helped more than 1,300 pets keep their humans and homes. They’ve astoundingly donated 53,000 hours of volunteer pet care. The organization also has some huge names backing them; they have partnerships with ASPCA, Wag!, PetCo, PetSmart, and Chewy! “This past year, [PAWSNY has] continued to be there for those [they] serve, helping hundreds of people and pets. In the first few months, PAWS NY facilitated thousands of in-home visits, and then when the pandemic arrived, [they] pivoted [their] focus and have since donated nearly 10,000 pounds of pet food, provided more than 1,700 days of foster care for pets whose guardians are hospitalized, and facilitated nearly 100 vet visits.” The volunteer organization is a certified 501(c)(3) and they are not currently able to take in new clients due to COVID, but they are excited and open to new referrals to come in so they can begin the process of having new clients be verified for future visits once things are safe to do so again.
If anything, PAWS NY helps to restore agency in pet owners, because providing help in a novel yet small way can allow others to live lives without constant sacrifice. When it comes to marginalized groups like low-income disabled and elderly people, it is evident that they aren’t always getting what they need. Government programs need to be reformed (honestly they need to be reworked from the ground up). The assistance being provided is sometimes not enough. And sometimes with the lousy resources provided, life becomes more about surviving instead of living. PAWS NY has found their niche in the nonprofit community and in the lives of those who need it.