Lawrence man who was temporarily homeless is grateful for Humane Society program that helped him keep his dog
photo by: Mike Yoder/Journal-World
When Lawrence resident Robert Jackson found himself “pretty much homeless” last winter, he was thankful to find a local hotel that, through a city program, was providing shelter for homeless people.
But the warm room wasn’t exactly free. The price? He’d have to give up his dog to stay there.
The thought was unthinkable. Jackson’s dog Webster, a young Labrador/hound mix, had been his constant companion for a couple of years. In his short life, the floppy-eared, brindle-colored pup hadn’t had much of a home, moving between several different owners, until Jackson found a listing for him on Craigslist and decided to take him in.
The two became inseparable.
So when Jackson fell on hard times and was faced with losing Webster, his mind frantically went into overdrive thinking of possible solutions.
“I didn’t have anywhere to put him,” Jackson said.
Fortunately, “I had a caseworker suggest I might try the Humane Society,” he said.
It turned out to be the perfect solution for Jackson, as it did for many pet owners who found themselves in difficult situations in the past year.
The Lawrence Humane Society, he discovered, had just recently started a program called the Crisis Pet Retention Fund, or CPR. The aptly named program provides assistance to people who find themselves temporarily unable to care for their pets — whether they are homeless, hospitalized, unemployed or facing other difficulties.
In Jackson’s case, the Humane Society was able to provide a comfortable foster home and other support for Webster until Jackson got back on his feet.
“I’m sure I would have lost my dog” if not for the program, Jackson said recently from his new apartment in central Lawrence. The CPR Fund also helped him pay the pet deposit to his landlord.
“I was able to not only reunite with my dog, but I was also able to keep him in my new place,” Jackson said.
The program — funded through donations and the Douglas County CARES fund — began in 2020, when the Humane Society started seeing a spike in the number of people asking about surrendering their pets due to financial hardships related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The last thing someone needs when facing a life crisis is the prospect of losing their beloved family pet,” said Shannon Wells, the executive director of the Humane Society.
The fund covers not just boarding but also things like pet deposits, essential supplies and emergency veterinarian care and vaccinations.
Between October 2020 and April of this year, the program received 501 applications for assistance, according to Elina Alterman, the society’s senior manager of social work. The Humane Society was able to help with most of those cases, providing 368 households with veterinary care, housing support, pet food, pet supplies and/or behavioral support. More than 60 animals, like Webster, were given temporary crisis boarding. And the fund provided more than $25,000 in emergency and specialty care at private clinics, plus about $5,000 for pet deposits and other fees associated with keeping animals in a residence.
The Humane Society hopes to keep providing the CPR service, even after the pandemic is long gone.
“We operate donation-based, and it is our sincere hope to be able to provide this program long term,” Wells said. “Of course it’s dependent on funding, but so far we are making it work.”
Jackson is one of numerous people grateful for the program.
“They were very helpful. I’m on my feet and everything,” he said. Then, calling to Webster, he added, “He’s a pretty spoiled dog, which he needs to be.”
People who need assistance with their pet can apply online at lawrencehumane.org or call the animal shelter at 785-843-6835. If you’d like to donate to the CPR Fund, you can do so at lawrencehumane.org.
THE CPR FUND
Elina Alterman, the Humane Society’s senior manager of social work, provided the following statistics on the CPR Fund.
Between Oct. 13, 2020, and April 13, 2021, the program had the following impact:
501 applications for assistance received;
368 individual households assisted with veterinary care, housing support, pet food, pet supplies, and/or behavioral support;
522 individual animals assisted with veterinary care, housing support, and/or specialized pet supplies (e.g., indestructible kennels, prescription food, etc.);
448 animals treated at LHS for essential preventive care (spays/neuters, vaccines, microchips, flea/tick treatment, dental);
63 animals have utilized temporary crisis boarding, 74% of whom were reunited with their owners;
55 animals’ emergency and specialty care was paid for at private vet clinics for a total of $25,432.05; and
14 families were assisted with pet deposits/rent/fees for a total of $4,962.24.