Julie Casey MSW, RSW

Wellness Care Farm

Nourishing Hearts

A toolkit for social workers and human service organizations to incorporate pet welfare into their work

What Social Workers and Their Agencies Can Do

The following examples are some of the ways social workers and their agencies can integrate pet welfare into their work:

  • Recognize the presence of a pet in the home and engage the individual/family with questions about the pet
  • Develop a “Pet Page” for every pet-owning individual/family to be included in client charts
  • Assess the pet while assessing the client
  • Offer pet welfare education
  • Address pet retention if there is a risk or need to relinquish a pet
  •  Link pet owners to services in the community

Helping People and Pets in Crisis Toolkit  http://www.helpingpetsandpeoplenyc.org/

Human services professionals will find a wide range of suggestions, intervention strategies and resources to help them assist pet owners in crisis. Each section identifies a problem, explains how to recognize it and suggests ways to address it:

Domestic Violence and Pets – Describes the role pets play in such situations and how to extricate domestic violence victims and their pets from them. Special Features: How to help clients develop a pet-safety plan, request an order of protection, or petition to have a pet registered as a therapy animal.

Homelessness and Pets – Explains how to assist the 5 to 10 percent of homeless people who own pets and who are precluded from entering homeless shelters because of the prohibitions against them. Special Features: Links to helpful organizations like the Animal Relief Fund, Feeding Pets of the Homeless, Seer Farms and Collide; information on Americans with Disabilities Act regulations and on New York City housing programs that allow pets.

Hospitalization, Illness and Pets – Explains how to arrange temporary or permanent care of pets for infirm or elderly patients without family or friends. Special Features: Information about temporary care, “re-homing” and requesting help from Animal Care & Control of NYC.

Animal Hoarding – Explains how to recognize and address animal hoarding. Special Features:  Animal Hoarding Assessment tool.

Pet Relinquishment – Explains how to help clients deal with life events that may require giving up a pet. Special Features:Tips on “re-homing” animals.

Animal-Assisted Therapy – Explains how to identify situations in which pets might play a therapeutic role, helping clients improve their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Special Features: An explanation of the differences among Service, Assistance and Therapy Animals; links to animal-therapy organizations.

Resources – Provides a recap of all of the resources mentioned throughout the site. Special Features: Hyperlinks and complete contact information.

Tips & Tools – Provides suggestions for social workers preparing to meet with individuals and families with pets, including tips on how pets can be used to engage otherwise reluctant clients, and what can be learned about an owner’s situation based on the condition of her pets.  Special Features:  Colorful, easy-to-read charts; links to local pet services for every possible need.

Strategies to Promote Pet Welfare Include:

  • Basic Tips and Tools for Engaging People with Pets​
  • Engagement Using a Pet
  • Assessing Pets in the Home
  • Identifying Abuse, Cruelty, or Neglect of an Animal 
  • Dos and Don'ts for Social Workers When Families Have Pets
  • Pet Welfare Education Information
  • Sample Pet Care Costs
  • Sample Pet Information Page

Helping Pets and People in Crisis

There is increasing aware of the connection between animal welfare and human welfare. In the best circumstances, animals and people thrive in a shared environment. In other instances, pet welfare issues may help to identify abuse or neglect occuring in the home, the need for additional support, or additional issues such as stability, mobility, and independence. In homes where there are limited resources and social services is involved, pets may be overlooked or not considered relevant to the challenging work addressing the health and welfare of the people at risk. 

Today, more individuals and families than ever before are welcoming pets into their homes. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surpise for social workers, visiting nurses, and other home visitors to notice that the families they work with also have animals in their homes. Pet owners fall into every demographic, every socio-economic bracket, and every location.