Saving pets: Program lends hand to low-income animal owners

Atlanta's LifeLine Animal Project manages one of many Pets for Life programs that keep animals with their owners and out of crowded shelters across the country

Those who did because they could no longer afford a pet have been getting some help over the past decade from a program operated by The Humane Society United States that provides food, medical care and other support.

The Shelters Animal Count national database shows that about 25% of the U.S. shelter population consists of animals that were formerly owned and later given up, for a variety of reasons: financial struggles, lease problems in housing units, animal behavioral problems or a loss of interest in owning a pet. Strays make up most of the shelters' populations.

Atlanta's Pets for Life program, initiated by the Humane Society, has been managed since 2017 by the LifeLine Animal Project, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that conducts door-to-door outreach multiple times a week. Team members knock on doors and ask residents questions about their pets, including whether they've been spayed or neutered, and leave information about the program's services. The program has served 8,801 clients as of Aug. 30, said Atlanta's Pets for Life director Andrea Peterson.

"Your pet is your child," Webb-Davis said. "It's your baby, so you want to have things right for them."