The Pets for Life program has proved a great success
The Pets for Life program has proved a great success

Caloundra push for PETS FOR LIFE project funds

THERE was no Christmas in July when funding for Pets for Life project expired in June.

But that doesn't meant Christmas isn't coming, with Member for Caloundra Mark McArdle getting behind the cause.

The campaign to secure more funding for the successful project has been boosted since Mr McArdle recently wrote to the Minister for Seniors Coralee O'Rourke in the hope of setting up a meeting to discuss the benefits of Pets for Life.

The program started eight years ago as a partnership between the Caloundra Community Centre and the then Sippy Creek Animal Refuge as a means of preventing traumatic pet surrenders for seniors.

But it has evolved into much more than that.

Volunteers who came to care for the animals of program participants also kept track of their health and well-being and reported any concerns to a project manager for further attention.

Caloundra Community Centre community development co-ordinator Tomas Passeggi said the project had provided help to 68 participants in the past three years.

The project's three-year funding grant from the Department of Health and Ageing expired and Mr Passeggi was unable to secure more funding.

Mr Passeggi said they had had to pay for volunteer training, police checks and insurance out of their own pocket.

"We have had to create waitlists for people interested in joining us because unless there happens to be a volunteer in your area, we are not able to advertise for one," he said.

"The interest is still there, but this is not sustainable (without government assistance) in the long term.

"With funding, when we have people with higher needs we were able to provide a program worker to follow up with them and provide more support, but at the moment we can only provide the volunteers for the connection and have to refer them on to other services for anything beyond that."

Mr McArdle said he and his wife had owned a cat for more than 18 years and he was a firm believer in the benefits of pet ownership on the health and well-being of older generations.

"The enjoyment we got out of her being around the home, I can only imagine there would be a manyfold increase to a person who is older and not as well," he said.

"The pure and unconditional love they provide is marvellous and for an elderly or isolated person it would be priceless."

Mr McArdle said the Pets for Life project was "well and truly advanced" with its success backed by research from the University of the Sunshine Coast.

"I'm hoping the Minister can visit the community centre and meet some of the people in the area who rely upon pets for company and to relieve isolation," he said.

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