Pets in the Park - Helping the Homeless care for their pets

Pets In The Park (PITP) is a group of volunteer vets and vet nurses helping the homeless care for their companion animals by providing free veterinary care. This grassroots community organisation runs free monthly vet clinics and quarterly de-sexing clinics for the much-loved animal companions of people struggling with homelessness.

For many homeless people, having a pet provides the unconditional love, companionship, emotional support and security that they’re unable to find elsewhere. The benefits of this bond between owner and pet are immense, including increased social, emotional and physical health.

PITP began in 2009 when vet Mark Westman took a fold-out table and esky full of vaccinations to a small park in Parramatta and started free veterinary checks for clients attending an outreach program run by Stepping Stones Community Ministry.

This idea was developed by vet nurse Vick Cawsey, who loved the concept of providing care for the animals owned by Sydney’s homeless. Teaming up with vet nurse Linda Warlond and vet Leah Skelsey, the newly formed team identified where help was most needed and established the first PITP clinic in Darlinghurst in 2012.

Fast forward to 2015 and PITP just continues to grow. Now a national charity, PITP has two clinics in Sydney, two clinics in Victoria and are about to roll out a clinic in Brisbane.

Just one conversation ...
A chance encounter with one of our clients and a member of the public led to an extraordinary act of generosity which has let Pets in the Park fast-track its outreach program.

Sam and his dog Tai had been regulars at our clinic. When Tai was diagnosed with an abscess it was obvious he needed surgery; luckily Pets in the Park were able to arrange to have him operated on thanks to the generous support of vet Michael Stephen and the team at Alexandria Veterinary Hospital.

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Sam and Tai

Sam and Tai could often be found outside the Queen Victoria Building in the city, where he often ends up in conversation with passers by. In February Sam got chatting to a woman who was interested to know about how Tai was looked after if he got unwell. Sam enthusiastically let her know about the good work Pets in the Park does every month at our clinics, as well as the extra support we were able to arrange when Tai was seriously unwell. Little did Sam know the impact his words would have!

Impressed, she contacted us to find out more about us and how she could make a donation. We got to talking with her about our plans to buy a van that would allow us start an outreach program with a mobile clinic to visit clients like Sam and Tai on the street. She stunned us all by making a $50,000 donation.

This amazing generosity meant we were able to buy the van right away and are now able to head out to the streets to see clients who are unable to make it to the clinic.

Pets in the Park outreach van

Pets In The Park reaching out

Achieving more together

In addition to generous donations like this, PITP relies on the goodwill and support of the veterinary community and we are also supported by partner practices who donate surgery space and surgical procedures.

To celebrate this, during Community and Philanthropy Partnerships Week we are hosting a Picnic in the Park, our Gala Charity Event for 2015. As part of this event, we will officially launch our pilot outreach program and celebrate our volunteers and the philanthropic partnerships that support us in helping the homeless care for their pets.

FRRR PITP Pilot Outreach Program – Helping the Homeless Care for their Pets Project acknowledges the support of the FRRR and the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services.

This article was written and submitted by James Dorahy, General Manager Pets In The Park Incorporated.