Pets can give people struggling with mental health issues, addictions, or other crises the motivation they need to keep going. On the other hand, some people refuse to seek treatment for their problems because they worry about what will happen to their pets.
A new partnership in Salt Lake City, Utah aims to solve this problem.
Ruff Haven is an all-volunteer animal shelter whose mission is “to provide a temporary shelter for pets to keep pets and their loved ones together in times of crisis, increase pet retention and reduce the number of animals entering the shelter system”. .”
They recently expanded that focus to include people struggling with addiction. A new partnership with Odyssey House, Utah’s largest comprehensive substance abuse program, will allow people to seek treatment while Ruff Haven cares for their pets for up to 90 days.
Randall Carlisle of Odyssey House said the pairing is “like a marriage made in heaven,” adding, “I’ve spoken to so many people who say I’m not in treatment because of my pet; now they can’t say that anymore.
Often, pets are the last link a person struggling with addiction has in their daily life. They may put family and friends aside, but they never stop loving their pets. Both Odyssey House and Ruff Haven hope people will emerge from treatment “as a whole person” who can then be reunited with their pets.
The system works thanks to the help of dedicated foster families who take in the animals for free. They send owners photos, text messages and updates about their pet while they are in treatment. Sometimes visits are even allowed to give people a chance to reconnect with their pets and strengthen their resolve to return to their normal lives.
“It’s a great morale boost for them,” said Beth Henry, foster care coordinator for Ruff Haven. “Sometimes we have animals that are kept here because their person likes to see them regularly. It is not very common for them to receive visits from their person every day. Cats especially, because cats can be stressed.
Knowing that their pets’ needs are being met means people can focus on their own well-being without distraction. They are also motivated to get better so they can see their pets again. Patients and workers at Odyssey and Ruff Haven are all working towards the same goal: reunification.
“It’s amazing how hard these people work for their pets and what motivates them,” said Marisa Hernandez, Chief Operating Officer of Ruff Haven. “The reunifications are just the culmination. It means so much.
This is such a thoughtful and important partnership. We hope it will be a success and inspire other shelters and treatment centers to pool their resources to eliminate the overwhelming concern of getting well for those seeking help.
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