On a given day, in any city in the world, you will see a homeless person. Five to ten percent of them will be accompanied by a pet of some description. In some areas, the percentage of the homeless accompanied by pets reaches as high as 24% based on the United States estimate of 3.5 million homeless people.
In 2006 Genivieve Fredericks was visiting New York City when she saw a homeless man begging on the street, with a dog lying at his feet. She wondered how he could have a pet and care for it if he couldn’t care for himself. This incongruity troubled her until she began seek the answers to the question. Genivieve was a pet lover and she realized that pets provided love for their humans unconditionally. The homeless were finding comfort in the pets to provide that sense of belonging and companionship that all humans seek.
In 2007, Fredericks launched PETS OF THE HOMELESS with the help of Gary Ailes and Woody Allen, local veterinarians. The trio started with donations and the help of the local media. The first day, they filled a 55 gallon trash can. Local businesses have gotten into the act sponsoring food drives such as GIVE A DOG A BONE WEEK. This particular fundraiser is now in the second year and at last count, an astonishing 79 tons of pet food have been donated.
Volunteers pick up, organize, and deliver food to the needy animals. Fredericks, who spends 30 to 40 hours a week in her Carson City headquarters, says that distribution centers have multiplied beyond anything she had expected. Collections sites have risen to 288 with 256 distribution sites in 39 states and a few in Canada.
Cash donations are used to sponsor grants for vets who hold free clinics where the homeless congregate. After hurricane Katrina, she realized that there was a need for pet disaster relief also. The love of people for pets meant that they would not leave them behind. Donations were diverted for crates and blankets for disaster-affected animals, so they could be as comfortable as possible, much to the relief of the pet owners.
Her husband Ray delivers pet food and helps with the logistics. Her daughter, Renee Lowery is an officer at FOOD FOR PETS helping to keep the non-profit organization going. Fredrick’s grandchildren put labels on bags of food and mail, and her English setter Kaiya supplies enough doggy companionship for them all.