Chicago programs that keep pets and families together

Chicago programs that keep pets and families together
Various programs in Chicago provide pet food and other services to keep pets and family together.
Photo Courtesy of Pets are Like Family.

I did a blog post earlier this year about how pets are affected by being left behind in animal shelters.  The focus was on a dog in particular that had been dumped at animal control by her family. While there are many families that seem to callously leave their pets behind, there are many families at the end of their rope that may feel they have few options. Luckily, there are many programs in Chicago that aim to keep pets and families together.

Often, pets in this group are valued members of a family. Health situations or difficult economic times may strain their resources to the point that they need to make a difficult decision about keeping a beloved pet in their family.

“There are organizations available to help people keep their pets,” says Alicia Obando, founder of Pets are Like Family (PALF). “People should not be afraid to reach out to the many resources in Chicago. There are pet food pantries, low-cost spay, neuter and vaccination clinics and other services available if you ask.”

Obando founded her organization earlier last year as a resource for families so that they don’t need to give their pets up to shelters and rescues during difficult times. PALF offers pet care 101 seminars, food donations and advice on behavioral training and will connect families in need with some veterinary services and wellness programs like Healthy Start.

Veterinary services

There are a variety of programs throughout the Chicago-area that offer wellness and vaccination services for pets. Some are aimed at low income and others may focus on helping out those heading to hospice who may need additional services. Here are some of the services.

Fox Valley Animal Welfare League offers low cost spay and neuter and wellness services

Fox Valley Animal Welfare League offers low cost spay and neuter and wellness services

The Animal Welfare League has a pet wellness clinic at its Chicago Ridge location that is open for services for those of low income. The Anti-Cruelty Society, PAWS, Tree House,AHA and the Fox Valley Animal Welfare League offer low-cost services ranging from spay and neuter clinics to low-cost vaccinations and a few other services for qualifying families.

One Tail at a Time also offers veterinary assistance to qualifying pet families and Pets are Like Family has a Healthy Start program. Spay Illinois also offers clinics around the state  and One Tail at a Time has a more comprehensive list of low cost spay/neuter services here.

The Banfield Charitable Trust, a division of PetSmart’s Banfield Veterinary, offers a “Peace of Mind” Program that enables hospice patients to stay with their pets. The organization also offers Wellness Plans and a HOPE program to provide veterinary care to those in need. Some shelters and rescues also have programs to assist families that have adopted from them.

The Big Hearts Fund in Chicago offers grants and helps people with fundraising if their pet has a heart problem. Other organizations that offer some veterinary support include the Helping Pets Fund from the American Animal Hospital Association and funding programs like Care Credit. Tree House has a more detailed list here and there is a graphic below with additional services. Often, families need just basic services to stay together.

Update: Since this article was published another great organization was founded in Chicago to help pet families in need with their veterinary bills. Read about the Six Legs Foundation here.

See additional programs on graphic at bottom.

Pet food pantries

When finances are thin, sometimes food donations will keep pets with their families and out of the shelter and rescue system. If you already qualify for help from a food pantry in the Chicago-area, check first with that pantry to see if they offer pet food, cat litter and other pet products to qualifying families.

Nina's Pantry from Young At Heart Pet Rescue helps supply pet food to two programs.

Nina’s Pantry from Young At Heart Pet Rescue helps supply pet food to two programs.

Tree House, the Animal Welfare League, PAWand the Lake County Pet Food Pantry all offer pet food and supplies to qualifying families in their respective communities. Several traditional food pantries – The Irving Park Community Food Pantry, St. Vincent DePaul in Lake Zurich and the Palatine Township pantry (supported by Young at Heart’s Nina’s Pantry) and Feeding Greater Elgin (supported by Bruno’s Pantry) also offer pet food and supplies.

For people already receiving help from Meals on Wheels, pet food and supplies may be delivered to your home with your deliveries. The program is sponsored through Banfield Charitable Trust. Sometimes, a more important resource is good direction on pet behavior and training.

Other services

Sometimes people need a safe place or temporary foster care for their pet while they get healthy or get back on their feet if they must relocate due to foreclosure, other financial issues or divorce.

Blessed Bonds, which now operates through A.D.O.P.T. in Naperville, offers foster care for up to two months and also offers other services. There are also month long programs – the Safe Haven Program from PAWS Chicago and SAFE from the Anti-Cruelty Society. Tree House also offers a program.

More organizations also offer behavioral assessment as well. Tree House has had a behavioral hot line for a couple of decades to help adopters work through issues with their cats. The Anti-Cruelty Society also offers advice and support through their own program. Call (312) 644-8338 ext. 315 OR ext. 343, or email

Getting timely help

Often if you reach out to local shelters and rescues in your community before the situation becomes dire, they will have the time to connect you with services that will help. Most groups want to keep pets in a good home as opposed to adding to the crowded animal welfare system. Too often, people wait until the last minute when it’s difficult to find services and end up relinquishing a pet.

The Anti-Cruelty Society offers what they call PREP – Planned Relinquishment Program. This controlled intake program allows time for the animal to develop protective immunity from common disease and recover from the stress of surgery, exam, testing and vaccinations.

Read yesterday’s post that looks at what to ask yourself before you adopt a dog.

Various organizations offer help with veterinary bills for those in need.

Various organizations offer help with veterinary bills for those in need.

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    Raining Cats and Dogs

    I am a crazy cat lady and puppy mill warrior that blogs to advocate and educate about pet issues. In American animal controls, millions of pets are abandoned each year and an estimated 4 million die just because there are not enough homes. It truly seems like it’s Raining Cats and Dogs.

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