A social work colleague of mine inquired about potential resources for a patient who has to be admitted to the hospital for cancer surgery but has two dogs who cannot stay with her in the hospital. She does not have funds to pay for boarding them or for someone to take care of them, and does not have friends or family to care for them.
This is an increasing problem as people who live alone and have pets, particularly the elderly, do not have friends or family to depend on to care for their pets when they must have either a scheduled or emergency hospital adminssion, and do not have the funds to pay for their pets to be boarded temporarily. There is also a problem when people need to move to a nursing home or hospice and need to find a home for their pets. In New York City, animal control is often called to take custody of pets who are left at home when someone is hospitalized, but will only board them briefly and will then euthanize them if they are not adopted, because there is no space to board them. The ASPCA and placed such as Bide-a-Wee cannnot board pets without being reimbursed because these groups are supported only by donations and don't receive government funding. New York City has a volunteer organization that will board pets temporarily at a cost below what others charge, but even that low fee, supplemented by donations, is beyond the financial means of poor persons and persons living on limited fixed incomes (primarily the elderly). Compounding the problem, people generally want to adopt pets that are one to two years of age and it is very hard to find persons to adopt older pets.
For many of these people their pets are like family. The loss of a pet, or the worry about what will happen to their pets, can result in significant emotional stress which can complicate these patients' physical and mental health.
Pets are increasingly being used in hospitals and nursing homes to bring comfort to patients and residents, with great success.
What are agencies and professionals in your locale doing to address this problem?