Orange County Animal Services is starting a new program that will keep more pets in homes

October 30, 2023

Public health and safety

In early September, Orange County Animal Services was forced to act quickly when a case of pneumonia virus was found in a shelter dog. In order to quickly isolate dogs exposed to the disease, intake of healthy and friendly dogs has been suspended. As a result, employees began offering advice to owners over the phone. The results were so positive, the Income Transfer Program was born.

“When we started suspending pet intake, we had to cancel nearly 200 pet surrender appointments,” explained Diane Summers, Orange County Animal Services Director. “We thought we could at least provide counseling for these people, and in doing so, we learned in many cases that they didn’t want to surrender their dogs; they just needed a little help and guidance.

This represents a major revelation for animal services staff, who realized this by changing procedures and providing telephone consultations before Dog owners who drive their dogs to the shelter (and mentally prepare themselves to give them up) are more likely to keep them once they have solutions to their issues.

“The Income Transformation Program is designed to transform incomes by making people aware of the diversity of resources available in our community,” Summers said. “It’s about helping dog owners with their individual issues, whether they can’t afford grooming, medical care, food…or maybe they can’t find pet-friendly housing. There are resources available that can help with those things.”

Animal Services staff will meet once a week to review the information they receive from consultations and build their list of community resources to help people with their pets’ problems. In some cases, food cannot be avoided, but in others, they will recommend specific resources for training (Happy Trails Dog Training), food (pet stores), medical issues (low-cost veterinary clinics), and pet-friendly housing (Pet Alliance of The greater Orlando area maintains a registry of pet-friendly lodging) and more.

“I see this as a silver lining because the virus situation has been challenging, but it has given us an opportunity to come up with this program,” Summers emphasized. “We really want to help people avoid giving up their dogs, so let’s hear your problem, and let’s explore available resources that can help you keep them.”

Animal Services recently announced the launch of an intake diversion program when canine pneumonia virus has run its course and intakes are no longer suspended. For more information, go to Orange County Animal Services.

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