Vets provide care for pets of unhoused people in Austin

The Street Dog Coalition and veterinarians partnered together to give unhoused pets vaccines, check-ups and any other medical care they needed.

AUSTIN, Texas — Veterinarians from across the nation came together to provide free pet care for the unhoused population in Austin on Sunday morning.

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s annual convention was held in Austin this year, bringing thousands of veterinarians to the city.

On Sunday, several of them volunteered, in partnership with the Street Dog Coalition, to provide medical services for pets of the city’s unhoused population.

“We know a lot of these people and their animals never get a chance to get to the veterinarian,” Dr. Hilary Wheeler, a veterinarian and the medical director for Street Dog Coalition, said.

The organizations provided everything from check-ups and vaccinations for the pets, to food and essential supplies for people experiencing homelessness to take with them.

Wheeler said dogs living on the streets of Austin with their owners face several health challenges. Because of the heat, Austin vets tend to see many paw pad burns, severely matted fur because it doesn’t get groomed often enough and a number of other infections.  

For Evelyn and her 3-year-old toy chihuahua, Miley, it’s a challenge to get care while living on the streets.

“I’m just late giving her a shot because we were homeless,” Evelyn said.

But receiving this medical care brings these dog owners one step closer to feeling like they’ve done the most for the pets that bring them their most sense of security.

“People need to depend on that bond for their motivation to continue on in some of the most difficult circumstances you can imagine,” Wheeler said.

For many unhoused people, their pets become their lifeline.

“You find yourself in a state of despair, and an animal provides companionship, safety, love, unconditional love, trust and the security of knowing you’re not alone,” Wheeler said.

After Sunday’s first check-up, the Street Dog Coalition will let these pet owners know when their animal is due for their next check-up. Also at the event, the group handed out vouchers for a free spay/neuter from local veterinarians in the future.

The Street Dog Coalition holds smaller pop-up clinics in Austin every month.

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