New service helps keep pets and owners together at home
TUCKED away quietly in a suburb in Geelong, Victoria, is a unique community-centred charity providing support for companion pets of vulnerable elderly people.
The social benefit charity, Cherished Pets Foundation, was started by veterinarian Dr Alicia Kennedy and is run out of her Cherished Pets Community Care.
"Our (practice) services have been designed and developed around elderly people and people with disabilities who are still living independently in our local community," Dr Kennedy said.
"The charity provides a portal for eligible people who require extra support to care for their pets and aren't in a position to fund it."
The veterinary business provides the on-going support for the health and well-being of pets while the charity provides support through volunteers under-pinned by the veterinary practice, a discretionary vet fee support and respite care of pets during times of crisis.
"So, if the owner goes into hospital, we have a plan in place for who's going to look after the pets which provides enormous peace of mind."
Dr Kennedy said she recognised early in her practice years how important the attachment is between an ageing person and their pet, but also how difficult it can become for the person to care for the pet.
"In severe cases the welfare of the pet can be comprised. It's not through a lack of love, but rather through their lack of capacity," Dr Kennedy said.
The CPF charity was launched in April 2015 and ran a pilot project for 10 clients, funded by the community.
In 2016, with the support of a state grant, CPF were able to expand their rehoming and respite care services.
"Every pet that comes into our program has a high chance of needing respite care or rehoming at some point in time," Dr Kennedy said.
"During our pilot we recognised that many of these sole companion pets have behaviour and training challenges that could impact their 'rehomability' including not being used to being around people.
"So we were able to progress our service through this grant to ensure that the behaviour and training needs of pets in our community project are supported, as is the rehoming and respite care process."
Her passion and generosity is exceptional, and so is her determination to make the program sustainable.
Each client's program is tailored to the needs of the pet and their owner and takes into account what funding is available to support the program.
The funding come from home-care packages, direct payment by private clients, the foundation, Dr Kennedy's pro-bono and low-bono social mission allowance, or the practice's 20% pensioner discount.
"We are making extraordinary progress to keep pets healthy so that their owners are happy and can enjoy the benefits," Dr Kennedy said.