SANDPOINT — Sometimes people have to find a new home for their pets, no matter how much they love them.
There is negativity around surrendering pets to a shelter, and not everyone is willing to do so. With its new Home to Home program, Panhandle Animal Shelter came up with a way to keep the animals out of the shelter when possible.
“The shelter can be extremely stressful,” said Many Evans, executive director of PAS. “If we can help people not bring their pets into such a stressful environment, why wouldn’t we do that?”
Home to Home is a website managed by PAS where the North Idaho community can post pictures and information about their pets online, for free, and the animal can be adopted, for free, without having to go through the shelter. The pets will go right from one home to another, hence the name Home to Home. The shelter is based in Sandpoint, but aims to help those in Kootenai and Boundary counties as well as Bonner County.
Evans said the only rule is that no money can exchange hands, because PAS does not want the site to be used for puppy mills or breeders. It is simply a platform for people to use to re-home their pets, while also utilizing the “extensive” Facebook presence of PAS, and staff will monitor the site to ensure the rules are followed.
Since it only launched a couple weeks ago, no animals have been re-homed at this point through the program, but as of Friday, nine animals were available on the site. Evans said the vast majority of people who surrender their pet to shelters believe there is no other option or “literally cannot keep their pet,” such as a senior moving into assisted living. In fact, a calico cat named Princess listed on the site is only there because her human, who has Alzheimer’s, recently moved into an adult foster care home and could no longer take care of her.
“He has had the cat for a few years and adores this cat — they were very much a team,” said Molly Gregory who is taking care of Princess since her father went into the home.
Gregory was her dad’s caretaker, but had to move him to the home due to the progression of the disease. She has a lake house in Coeur d’Alene and travels back and forth to Seattle. She rents the house in Seattle and was trying to decide what to do because her home in Seattle will not allow her to keep Princess, and the home where her dad now lives will not allow the cat either.
Princess is a quiet cat that loves to be loved, although she does have her boundaries, Gregory said. At first, the cat was a little nervous around Gregory’s two children, ages 11 and 14, but has grown fond of them as well. She also has done well with traveling, especially since she is an indoor cat, Gregory said.
Gregory said taking Princess to a place like the Humane Society is not something she is willing to do.
While in Coeur d’Alene, Gregory started calling shelters, looking for options to find Princess a good home. That is when she discovered PAS. Gregory said she spoke with Betty Anderson, helpline manager and Home to Home administrator. She said Anderson was “amazing” and very responsive and helpful in getting Princess on the website.
“(Princess) is important to me because she is a sweet cat and she is important to my dad,” Gregory said. “I’d love to just find her a home and not have her go through another transition.”
Evans said when the idea for the program came up, she did some research and could only find one shelter on the East Coast that was doing anything similar to Home to Home; all the others were paid services.
“It is safe to say, I think, that we are one of the first shelters in the nation that is doing it,” Evans said. “And I do believe that we are going to see a lot of other shelters start doing it because there is just a big focus on animal welfare right now.
Evans said there has been a negative perception around the site that shelter workers don’t want to do their job. That is not true, she said. The site is not going to work for everyone, and those who need to bring their pets in to PAS or another shelter are welcome to do so. The general perception of negativity around surrendering pets to shelters is something Evans said PAS is trying to change. There are some shelters, she said, that shame people for bringing in their pets, even when there is no other option.
“We are really trying to switch that perception to where we are here to be an organization that really supports and understands our community instead of putting people down or discouraging what they think is the best thing,” Evans said.
For information about Home to Home, go to www.home-home.org or call (208) 265-7297; for information about PAS, visit www.pasidaho.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pasidaho.