Owned animals come in to shelters for all sorts of reasons. From allergies, to new (human) babies, to new apartments, millions of animals are surrendered to the municipal shelter system every year. It’s easy to build yourself a gorgeous mountain of anger and frustration over the casual attitude toward pet care by their owners. But equally upsetting is when humans who don’t want to give their pets up are forced to by circumstances beyond their control such as homelessness, natural disasters, illness or poverty.
It sounds unimaginable to have to give up a pet, and probably many of us would swear we’d never do it no matter what the situation. Nevertheless, hardships sometimes force owners and pets unwillingly apart. Without family or friends to help out, and lacking the economic resources to board a pet indefinitely ($50/day adds up fast), what options are out there?
With some luck and hard work you may get your pet accepted by a rescue group, but the end result is that you lose your pet and put their fate in the hands of others.
Seer Farms offers an alternative. This relatively young organization’s mission is to keep families and their pets together through times of hardship and crisis. They fill an incredibly important need especially during economic downturns when surrendered pet numbers go up (the ASPCA estimates the recession has led to an additional one to two million animals being give up by their owners), city budgets decline, and everyone is asked to do more with less.
Seer Farms was started by Laura Pople. Pople recognized that there are some circumstances — foreclosure, medical emergencies, military deployment and domestic violence, among others — that affect even the most dedicated pet owners. Most of these situations, however, are temporary. By providing short-term animal, Pople figured that, ultimately, many of these people and their pets could be kept together.
As you can imagine, there are many potential complications for short-term animal care when the expectation is that the original owners and their pets will be reunited. People who bring their pets to Seer Farms commit to reuniting with their animals on an agreed-upon timetable and agree to staying in touch with them by visiting the sanctuary regularly throughout their stay. Those who can manage it are asked to contribtue a monthly fee to help cover the organization’s operating expenses, but otherwise Seer Farms supports themselves primarily with private and company donations.
Keeping animals out of the shelter system is a critical part of a successful animal care and control plan. When I was a core volunteer at Rocket Dog Rescue, I’d regularly get calls from people who wanted temporary shelter for their pets. Usually, with tremendous regret and frustration that I had no other ideas, I had to turn them away. There is a definite need for this service, and while it isn’t a traditional “rescue” operation, this model provides an invaluable resource for pet owners everywhere. I hope we start to see more organizations like Seer Farms that supply short-term care to help keep pets and their people together.
Seer Farms already has more demands on their service than they can handle. Currently they are caring for approximately 175 animals, and 49 cats and dogs have already left to be reunited with their people.
Image: Rabbi Robin Nafshi, President of Seer Farms, via Jewish Daily Forward