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Out of the Cage! The Blog of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals

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Thirteen-year-old Princess and her family were evicted from their home. She's in a temporary Pets for Life NYC foster home until her family finds a new apartment. If not for this foster home, Princess would have ended up at the city shelter. (Photo by Suzan Fructman)

Thirteen-year-old Princess and her family were evicted from their home. She's in a temporary Pets for Life NYC foster home until her family finds a new apartment. If not for this foster home, Princess would have ended up at the city shelter.

Photo by Suzan Fructman

Out of the Cage! (April 2011)

When It's the Pet's Owner Who Needs Help

by Jane Warshaw

There's good news for pet owners who think they have to surrender their pets because of problems they think they can't solve. Whether they are problems with landlords, behavioral issues, allergies, or just basics like food and veterinary care, Pets for Life NYC can help.

It's easy for pet owners to feel overwhelmed when it feels like there's no one they can turn to for help…and the only thing they can do is surrender their pets to a shelter. That's why Pets for Life NYC (PFLNYC), a program of The Humane Society of the United States, was created. PFLNYC is a unique animal surrender prevention program whose stated goal is "to keep animals in their homes and out of the shelter."

Pets for Life NYC Services

Temporary foster homes and low-cost pet boarding services for pets when their owners are in crisis, if they qualify. This can include problems in the home, eviction, foreclosure, illness, hospitalization, domestic violence, or house fire.

Free and low-cost behavioral training for cats and dogs. Whether it's a cat or dog who isn't playing nicely with other pets in the house; a dog who barks excessively, pulls on the leash, or isn't housebroken; or a cat who's not using her litter box, or who is manicuring his claws on your sofa, chairs, and curtains, PFLNYC can provide help with a free or low-cost animal behaviorist.

Reduced-cost veterinary services for those who qualify. Services are available for all kinds of veterinary care, including surgery, dental care, and specialty needs.

Information and referrals for free and low-cost spay/neuter services. Every animal shelter and rescue organization in New York City wants you to spay or neuter your pet, so you can be sure you'll get help with this.

Help with pet-related landlord-tenant disputes. Pet owners have more rights than many of them are aware of — including those who are tenants of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). PFLNYC can provide information, assistance, and, if you're qualified, a referral to a lawyer who will try to help at no charge.

There are several legal ways to keep your pet even if your lease prohibits pets. The bottom line is, don't just take your landlord or housing manager's word for it that your pet has to go, or you do. Contact Pets for Life NYC before you do anything.

Allergy and shedding solutions. Pets for Life NYC offers information and tips on living comfortably with allergies and pets, and also advises people to always get an allergy test first to make sure it really is your pet that's causing the allergy. It may be something else, like your detergent or your pillow.

Donations of pet food and donations or loans of pet supplies, including dog training crates and no-pull harnesses, for those who qualify.

General counseling and education about pet related problems, and answers to a multitude of questions about pets, including questions about bottle-feeding motherless kittens, or introducing a new pet into a household that includes other pets.

Help with Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) for people caring for outdoor community cats and feral cat colonies.

And there's more good news.

Help is available seven days a week, from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., through the PFLNYC hotline at (917) 468-2938. Also, staff members at all Animal Care & Control of NYC (AC&C) shelters will offer to connect pet owners who think they have to give up their pet with a specially trained support person on the PFLNYC hotline.

Margherita and King are happy together, thanks to The Humane Society of the United States' Pets for Life NYC program. (Photo by Jenny Olsen)

Margherita and King are happy together, thanks to The Humane Society of the United States' Pets for Life NYC program.

Photo by Jenny Olsen

Joyce Friedman, one of the PFLNYC Coordinators, says that all New Yorkers can help PFLNYC help animals stay in their homes and out of shelters. She explained that the program desperately needs more pet foster parents (all supplies are provided), hotline volunteers, and donations. Contact Jenny Olsen at or (917) 468-2938, or visit for more information.

Volunteers can know that when they help one, they're actually helping two — the animal and the animal's owner.  By keeping one more animal out of an AC&C shelter (where unfortunately some animals are euthanized for lack of space and not enough adoptive homes), they're also helping all the animals that are already in an AC&C shelter, providing them with more time to be adopted.

Margherita and her 13-year-old German Shepherd, King, illustrate how PFLNYC can help pet owners in need. SSI and food stamps weren't sufficient to allow her to pay her electric bill, much less wash her clothes. When King developed a lump on his side and arthritis, she didn't know what to do. So she called Pets for Life NYC. PFLNYC arranged for King to see a reduced-cost veterinarian to get medication and supplements for the arthritis, and periodically donates food to King when Margherita cannot afford it.

Other Organizations That Can Help

Some human food pantries now carry pet food. The Animal Relief Fund (ARF) distributes pet food to local food pantries, like the Yorkville Common Pantry. ARF also works with Food Bank For New York City and Long Island Cares to make pet food available at many of their food pantries. For more information about food pantries that carry pet food, visit

Another organization that can help is the Prince Chunk Foundation, named after a very fat cat found wandering the streets because his owner had lost her home. Prince Chunk's stated mission is "preventing animal homelessness by providing temporary assistance to dog and cat owners, including free emergency vet care and pet food…so pet owners don't have to choose between caring for themselves and caring for their pets."

Prince Chunk provides assistance to pet owners in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and California. To learn more about this resource, visit Or you can call (856) 302-6373, or e-mail

To locate more resources for pet owners, please visit our Financial Help for People with Pets page.

The one thing pet owners should know is that no matter what problems they're having caring for their pets, they are not alone!


Jane WarshawAbout the Author

Jane Warshaw is a former advertising copywriter who is now a freelance writer specializing in animal rights, animal welfare, and human health and rights issues. Her work has appeared in Time Out New York, The Villager,,,, and the TimesLedger and Manhattan Media newspapers. A graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, she now lives in New York City with three cats, a rescued racing Greyhound, and a rotating cast of foster cats and kittens who she cares for until they're healthy and happy enough to be adopted into permanent homes.