A pet is often the only companion for a homeless person facing problems with addiction and/or mental illness.

To get the help the person may need means they might have to abandon their pet. Most will not do it.

So a new nonprofit in Tulsa, Pause4Paws, wants to eliminate the obstacle of what happens to a pet of a person who needs to go get help for addiction or mental health.

“Leaving a pet behind is a huge obstacle to getting the help many of these people need,” said Cindy Webb, executive director of Pause4Paws. “In many cases, these pets have been their lone and faithful companion through some very difficult times.

“They know they need the help for addiction or mental health issues. But they won’t leave their pets behind. We hope to change that.”

Pause4Paws is setting up a system of short-term emergency foster care for pets of people affected by homelessness, mental illness or addiction.

When the people seek urgent medical, mental health or substance abuse treatment, Pause4Paws will provide foster families to care for the pets for up to a month or two.

“Anything from five days on up to whatever they need,” Webb said. “We are not a long-term care solution. We want to be there for the emergency so the person can get the emergency help they need.

“We are there to take care of their pet and then return the pet to them.”

Pause4Paws has already signed up 40 foster families willing to care for pets while the pet owners are getting the help they need. They are in need of additional foster families (pause4pawsok.org or 918-829-9811).

“We think there is a great need out there,” Webb said. “We have talked to the organizations and agencies that work with these people.

“This really has been a huge obstacle for so many people that need help. So we’re planning on being very busy starting in December. We want to be ready to help anyone that needs us.”

Pause4Paws will get recommendations from various agencies and organizations in the Tulsa area that serve the homeless, along with people dealing with mental illness and substance abuse. Once an agency sets up the treatment and there is a need for short-term care of a pet, Pause4Paws will be notified.

“We are not going to be seeking out people on the streets,” said Webb. “There is a huge need, and we’ll start by working through the agencies.

“If a person comes in seeking help and has tried but can’t find anyone to take care of their pet, we’ll do it. We will be the emergency safety net for their pet so that they can get the treatment they need.”

Webb said her group hopes to sign up another 10 foster families in the next few weeks.

“We would like to have 50 or more families so that we have plenty of foster care available for those who need it,” she said.

Pause4Paws is also seeking volunteers to transport pets, provide pet supplies, provide pet health care and help recruit foster families.

A number of local entities are helping fund the new group, including The Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation and the Hardesty Family Foundation.

“As we’ve been planning and working on Pause4Paws, we’ve heard so many stories about how emergency foster pet care could have saved lives of people,” Webb said. “We want to end homelessness, substance abuse and mental illness, and to do that, those people that seek treatment need to have any obstacles to that treatment removed.

“If we can provide a safe and loving home for their beloved pets while they get the help they need, they can have the opportunity at a better life.”

John Klein 918-581-8368

john.klein@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @JohnKleinTW

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