Homeless pet owners on Skid Row can now find free food, leashes and collars for their cats and dogs.
Starting this week, the Downtown Dog Rescue (DDR) will operate a weekly pet resource center on Skid Row. Volunteers will hand out free pet care essentials every Wednesday at the Inner City Law Center, a non-profit law firm downtown. It's a project Lori Weise, the president of DDR, said is the first of its kind.
"This is just our small part," she said.
Weise has been working with homeless pet owners for more than two decades, she said, but the new center will allow her and her team to provide a more confidential, less intrusive space to care for dogs and cats. In the past, Skid Row hasn't had a place for people to bring their pets for basic care such as vaccinations or treatments against fleas.
"It's intrusive to just walk up to someone and ask them to vaccinate their dog," Weise said.
She, along with other volunteers, was inspired to open the center after the release of Mayor Eric Garcetti's Homelessness Strategy Report earlier this year. Even though her center hasn't been funded by the city, Weise said she hopes the resource center will help people living on Skid Row feel a sense of ownership and responsibility with their pets.
"[People living on Skid Row] are going to get up [in the morning]. They're going to get water for their dog. They're going to feed the dog," she said. "It's all the things that every human, you know, wants."
On Wednesday morning, the center's opening day, volunteers organized small piles of water bowls, bags of dog food and Frontline Plus flea medication on tables at the Inner City Law Center, a non-profit law firm that has partnered with DDR to open the pet resource center. The center will also provide legal counsel for people who are facing illegal eviction or who are turned down for housing or housing assistance because they have an animal that provides emotional or physical support.
In addition to toys and water bowls, the center will provide free spay and neutering, micro-chip procedures, and can also provide temporary housing for pets and owners to stay together.
The real challenge for Weise and her volunteers is getting the word out. Nobody showed up on the center's opening day.
"It'll be a lot about word and mouth," Weise said, adding that volunteers would be traveling around Skid Row in the coming weeks to tell pet owners know about the new center.