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'Pets for Life' working to address 'veterinary deserts' across America

From big cities to small towns, it doesn't matter where you live: for many people, pets are family. Sometimes, circumstances can make it hard to take care of them. So, across the country, 'Pets for Life' is stepping up to help ease that burden.
"Pets for Life" is a program from the Humane Society of the United States. They work in 43 states across the country, to get pet care to places where people experience poverty or lack access to veterinary care for their pets.
At the home Deniece Young shares with her cat, Mr. Moe, the team from 'Pets for Life' stopped by to drop off some pet supplies. More than a companion, Mr. Moe is part of Young’s family - and has been for more than 20 years.
During the past 12 years, Pets for Life helped more than 265,000 pets and just recently completed their 1 millionth service.
It's no secret: plenty of Americans love their pets. According to the U.S. Census, about half of all households in the country - 49.6% - own at least one pet. Across the nation, 49 million households have a dog, more than 28 million have a cat, with fish (5 million), birds (2.7 million), small mammals (2.7 million) and reptiles (2.5 million) rounding out the rest.
Posted at 10:25 AM, Dec 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-23 14:48:35-05

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Deniece Young's cat, Mr. Moe, looks pretty good for a 20-year-old.

"Check this out! He has his own water bottle in our refrigerator,” she said. "And there he is – healthy now."

More than a companion, Mr. Moe is part of Young’s family.

"He's my world. He greets me when I come home,” she said. “My husband has passed away. So, it's just Mr. Moe and I."

On this day, though, they’re not alone. They're getting a visit from a group consistently making the rounds in her neighborhood.

The team knocking on her door is with "Pets for Life," a program from the Humane Society of the United States.

They work in 43 states across the country, to get pet care to places where people experience poverty or lack access to veterinary care.

"Just like there are 'food deserts,' there are 'pet resource deserts' and 'veterinary deserts' – and, oftentimes, the two overlap," said Pets for Life senior director Amanda Arrington.

That is where the Pets for Life teams come in, bringing supplies and arranging vet care.

"Just about every community in the country - whether it is urban, whether it's suburban, rural, Native - has pockets where there are concentrations of poverty and little to no access to pet resources,” Arrington said.

On this day, Melissa Corey and her team went door-to-door in one such community: North Philadelphia.

"We are going to one of our clients, Jessica Preston. Jessica is what we call a community ambassador,” she said, "and then she also is there to assist her neighbors with spaying and neutering a lot of cats in her neighborhood."

Preston and her daughter are currently caring for a number of kittens, hoping to find them homes.

"Anyone comes across cats, they come to me," Preston said. "If I can, I'm going to do it. I help. I take them in. I thank God I have the Pets for Life."

It’s a sentiment shared by Paul Diaz. One of his three small dogs is facing a serious illness.

"When I have a concern about whatever she's going through, I know Melissa's there, so I can ask her or the team, so they can guide me," Diaz said.

It’s a journey the teams share with pet owners.

"It's a package deal,” Corey said. “You know, you can't have the person without the pet. You can't have the pet without the person."

During the past 12 years, Pets for Life has helped more than 265,000 pets and just recently completed its one-millionth service.

"People will do anything for their pet, even putting their pets needs above their own," Arrington said.

It's the people they meet, though, that drives what they do.

"Everyone that you meet is so grateful for everything, you know,” said Sely Cumba, as she drove the Pets for Life van to another home. “Even if it's if it's a small bag of treats - they are so grateful."

They are treats that Deniece Young’s car Mr. Moe is happily partaking in, which makes her happy, too.

"Knowing someone needs you,” she said, “he's my someone."

To find the Pets for Life team operating in your area, click here.