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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

San Marcos animal shelter lends helping hand to pet owners

The San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter is using its $20,000 grant from the ASPCA to fund its Fur-Get-Me-Not Outreach to give pet owners financial aid during the pandemic.

The San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter is using its $20,000 grant from the ASPCA to fund its Fur-Get-Me-Not Outreach to give pet owners financial aid during the pandemic.

With help from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter is providing financial assistance and services to aid pet owners struggling to support their furry friends during the pandemic. 
In March, the ASPCA announced its national Relief and Recovery Initiative, a program created in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which provides $2 million in financial assistance for animal welfare organizations. 
“In addition to the unprecedented challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created for people, it is also putting animals at risk by straining essential owner and shelter resources,” ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker said in a press release. “Through the ASPCA Relief and Recovery Initiative, we are helping animals stay healthy and safe as we weather this crisis together.”
The San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter applied for a grant from the ASPCA and received $20,000 in early September. The grant is going toward funding the shelter’s own initiative called the Fur-Get-Me-Not Outreach, a program created to provide various animal services to pet owners who may be facing difficulties during the pandemic. 
Animal Services Manager Jeanne Saadi says the initiative started out as an idea from an animal protection officer who noticed a need for assistance among homeless pet owners before the pandemic hit. 
She says the shelter noticed homeless pet owners will often sacrifice their own needs to care for their pets, so it began putting together bags with pet supplies to distribute. When the shelter saw how many people it was helping, it wanted to continue to reach out and see how many other at-risk communities it could help.
“The [Fur-Get-Me-Not Outreach] just grew from that idea,” Saadi said. “We thought if we can get this grant, we can help even more people so that we can prevent owner surrenders and keep pets with their people.”
To apply for a Fur-Get-Me-Not voucher, pet owners need to show proof of or demonstrate financial need, such as food stamps or unemployment. Applicants can also be referred by another assistance agency to be eligible.
Saadi says she understands times are tough and that the animal shelter will continue to work with pet owners to get help for them and their animals. 
“Sometimes you don’t qualify for food stamps, and you’re just at the end of your paycheck and living paycheck-to-paycheck,” she said. “We don’t want you to have to give up your best friend because you’re having a hard time.” 
On the day the shelter launched the initiative, it was already giving away vouchers. Saadi says since there is an obvious need for this kind of assistance; the shelter’s top priority for the program is finding a way to make it sustainable. 
“Once that $20,000 is up, that’s it for right now,” she said. “If there’s a business out there that wants to sponsor this, or if somebody wants to do some fundraising to keep this going, there is obviously a need in our community for this, and I think that need is just going to go up within the next year.”
So far, the shelter has given out several vouchers that have provided financial assistance and veterinary care to San Marcos area pet-owners. 
Hailey Ambler is a resident who received one of the vouchers after she found a cat with a swollen leg and didn’t have the money to take it to the vet. She posted about the cat to the Save the Cats of Hays County Facebook page where someone told her to contact Saadi. 
“It was scary. We weren’t sure if [the cat] was going to make it or not,” Ambler said. “We needed to get her [to] the vet immediately. We were scared that if we didn’t, she would die.”
Ambler, who is unemployed, says she was relieved after she found out there was a way to get help for the cat. With the voucher, she was able to pay for a vet visit where she found out the cat had been bitten by a snake. 
Another voucher recipient Ondolina Segura says since the pandemic hit, her hours at work have been cut back, leaving her worried about how she would be able to care for her dog. When she found out about the Fur-Get-Me-Not Outreach from Saadi, she felt reassured. 
“I felt relieved; I felt happy,” Segura said. “I was able to get the care my dog needed, so I just felt happy.”
Segura says she had been struggling to afford pet vaccinations and vet appointments, but with the voucher, she was able to use the funds to have her dog spayed, neutered and treated for a skin problem.
Eventually, the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter wants to extend the Fur-Get-Me-Not Outreach and work with surrounding apartments to aid in paying residents’ pet rent.
For more information about the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter, visit its website or Facebook page. For more information about the ASPCA’s COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Initiative, visit its website.

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