Free veterinary care for pets of homeless people

Street Dog Coalition: Free veterinary care for homeless people’s pets

The Street Dog Coalition is a national network of free pop-up veterinary clinics for the pets of homeless people. A local chapter is in Burlington.

Roger Rushlow is currently homeless, living in a motel through Vermont’s emergency housing program. He is applying for permanent residency for himself, his partner, and dog Gizmo through the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity and the Section 8 program.

To qualify for many housing programs, Rushlow must meet a specific requirement: Gizmo’s vaccinations.

Rushlow said the accessibility and cost of pet vaccinations can be a barrier to housing for many Vermonters facing homelessness. So he came to him Street Dog Alliance Clinic

A free pop-up veterinary clinic in Burlington

The Street Dog Coalition is a national network that provides free pop-up veterinary clinics for the pets of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Clinics treat dogs, cats and other pets.

A Burlington chapter of the network was founded last year by veterinarian Michelle Toles. The local chapter conducts a four-day clinic each year.

“All the people who love their animals and can’t afford everything, this is a great place for them to get what they need,” said Eric Young, a clinic participant.

We won’t go where we don’t have Gizmo.

The latest clinic was held on November 18 at the First Congregational Church in Burlington. Dozens of people and four-legged friends lined up outside the church for the clinic.

“By vaccinating all these dogs against rabies, we’re hopefully helping public health,” Toles said. “And getting them on heartworm prevention, so they won’t be a source of heartworm for other dogs.”

A volunteer team of veterinarians provides vaccinations, exams, tests and more for these pets. The supply was provided by the National Street Dog Coalition Network, a nonprofit based in Colorado.

“Once this passes, it actually opens the door for us to have real housing programs, not just this emergency housing. We really need that.” Rushlow said. “We won’t go anywhere we don’t have (Gizmo), so it definitely puts us in a situation where we need it.”

Contact April Fisher at amfisher@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @AMFisherMedia

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