SSHS Pets are Family program 2_web
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With owners in crisis, Homewood family provides temporary home to dog, part of new SSHS program

 

Kerri Bradley is a Homewood resident who loves dogs. In April, she began fostering a dog named Brie as a part of South Suburban Human Society’s new Pets are Family program. 

Bradley and her family took care of Brie for about a month before she was reunited with her owners. Brie was the first pet to successfully enter and exit the program, according to a press release from the SSHS.

Karina pets Brie, who plopped herself in the middle of her birthday presents. (Provided photo)

“A couple months ago, they asked me if I would take a dog, a big German shepherd mix named Brie, for a family that I believe had a house fire — and had to move out while their house was being repaired,” said Bradley. “They were living with family or something where they couldn’t have a big dog. I think Brie was 7 years old. She was not young. They’d had her since she was a puppy. So they didn’t want to give her up for adoption. They just needed somewhere for her to stay.”

According to SSHS officials, Brie’s family had indeed suffered a house fire — and Brie was returned to her family on May 17.  

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SSHS’s stated mission is to “protect and promote the well-being of pets and their people in our community and beyond”. This is why in February, when the pandemic was creating economic uncertainty, the organization launched the new program, which is designed to give pets a temporary, foster home while their owners are unable to care for them.

Brie on her way back to the shelter to be reunited with her family. (Provided photo)

If a pet owner is facing eviction, temporary homelessness, a house fire, domestic violence, rehabilitation, hospitalization or economic uncertainty, they can apply for assistance on SSHS’s website or by calling 708-996-0039. 

If their application is accepted, the pet owner can receive 30 days of crisis care through safety net fosters and more time if they qualify. This includes weekly check ins by a Pets are Family case manager and medical care for the pet. This assistance is completely free. 

“Previously, owners would come to the shelter as their last resort, feeling like the only thing that they could do is to give up their beloved pet,” said Amanda Litviak, the Foster and Safety Net Coordinator who coordinates the Pets Are Family program. “Now, thanks to the Pets are Family program, South Suburban Humane Society can match up pets with foster families in the south suburbs and give owners the time that they need to address their hardship and keep their families together.”

“Increasingly, animal shelters across the country are looking for ways that we can help people keep their pets — instead of just being a place where people have to bring their pets in times of distress,” said Emily Klehm, the CEO of the South Suburban Human Society. “We’re always at capacity and don’t have kennel space to hold onto a pet for three months at a time. But through foster homes, we can increase that capacity.”

“I believe very firmly that pets are an integral and important part of our lives — as families, as communities. So, to work somewhere that supports pets and people who love them is the most rewarding job that I can imagine for myself,” said Klehm.

“I think [Pets Are Family] fills a really important need that most shelters don’t fill. Because especially over the past couple years, the economy’s been rough,” Bradley said. “There’s a lot of people out of work. We’ve gotten a lot of desperate requests from people who need medical treatment. They’re in the hospital getting treated for COVID and they can’t leave their dog at home alone. And there’s no one who can take the dog.” 

Bradley said she’s no stranger to traditional pet fostering. And when SSHS asked her to participate in their new program, Pets Are Family, she happily obliged. 

“About 10 years ago, we started fostering. And we have fostered – I haven’t even kept count — but I would say thirty-some dogs and over a hundred little, neonatal kittens,” said Bradley. “We’re taking a break right now because we have a sick cat, but I don’t think we’ve gone more than a week or two without having a foster animal in the past 10 years.”

Currently, there are five pet families enrolled in Pets Are Family, according to a press release from the SSHS.

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