Arizona Pet Project to Open Resource Center in South Phoenix

Pets need annual vaccinations and routine checkups. It is information that Michele Soto would like to have as a child. There is a lack of information and assistance related to pet care that is appropriate for her community, she said.

As she got older, she started working in animal welfare, but from the perspective of the groups she interacted with, something was missing: the human connection. Much of what she heard was focused solely on animals, neglecting the needs of their owners, and creating the impression that it was not okay not to know about pet care, she said.

Soto, the operations manager of the Arizona Pet Project, wants to change that. The nonprofit is scheduled to open its first resource center in South Phoenix later this month. The Arizona Pet Project emphasizes the connection between humans and animals, providing services to humans and their pets to keep them together despite adversity.

The nonprofit connects people with services that help with rent and medical care, as well as free or low-cost pet care. It decided to open its new space in South Phoenix because of needs such as teaching materials in Spanish and access to services in the community.

“It really builds on that community justice,” said Leanna Taylor, executive director of the Arizona Pet Project. “These are people who love their pets very much. With 80% of our paychecks just a roof over our heads, it is very difficult to find the funds to cover unexpected expenses. “

According to the Neighborhood Technology Center, many families living along the south central corridor near the resource center spend two-thirds of their income on rent and transportation. The per capita income at zip code 85041 where the center is located is $ 20,228.

The new location at 7227 South Central Ave., on Baseline Road, will have a launch party on May 15th at 10am. The center is expected to have a gentle opening in the first week of June.

Leanna Taylor, the executive director of the Arizona Pet Project, will post a sticker on the window of the new stationary location of the resource center in Phoenix on April 26, 2021.  The Arizona Pet Project helps families take care of their pets.

A welcoming environment

The Arizona Pet Project was started in 2001 on the premise that problems with pets are problems with people. Currently, the Maricopa County’s nonprofit Animal Care and Control is working out and working with other animal welfare groups to provide services.

Taylor said some people don’t consider county accommodations to be welcoming spaces because contacting a government agency is daunting.

“The other piece makes sure it’s a very safe and welcoming place for our undocumented community members who may feel very unsafe going to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control,” said Taylor. “Not because of any of the Animal Care and Control policies, but because of Maricopa County’s perception as a government agency.”

Stigma also plays a role in whether people seek help when they cannot look after their animals. It can be humiliating for people to admit that they may have to give up their pet. A feeling that worsens when the place they seek help doesn’t put the person’s needs first, Taylor said.

The focus in animal welfare is usually on adoption, she said. And that leaves little room to discuss people who may be in crisis and may not be able to look after pets.

When a person searches for services for the pet project, staff and volunteers start a conversation and make sure that the person’s wellbeing is just as central as that of the animal.

“It’s like in this little light that we ask questions about the person and the pet,” said Soto of her first experience working on the Pet Project. “Just to say, ‘Hey, how are you? Is something wrong with you Can we put you through a consultation? ‘This is so unique and what I’m so looking forward to. “

Part of the stigma of needing help with pets is rooted in the breed, Taylor said. There are harmful stereotypes portraying people of color as negligent owners or ignorant about proper pet care such as vaccination, neutering and neutering, she said. About 80% of customers who use the organization’s free spay and neuter program are Latinos.

All volunteers and clerks speak Spanish and are local to the community. The Pet Project employs people from the communities they serve so they can relate to customers and understand them on a cultural level.

“Being from Maryvale and having a family in South Phoenix, I’ve seen the changes in the community and in the needs of the people,” said Soto. “But the most important thing is to listen to what they need and we are open to change based on what the community says.”

What’s going to be in the new center?

The Pet Project staff will be conducting listening sessions in the first few weeks after the official opening date to assess what the people of South Phoenix would like to see from them.

Resources are offered in Spanish, especially for missing pets. The materials required to report a missing pet are usually in English.

“All services have historically been in English only, and English only,” said Taylor. “So the other problem is, you really need technology, or access to technology, to even find these services. So there is a big gap in having a fully accessible, bilingual center. “

It will continue to offer free pet food, free spay and neutral services, connections to emergency veterinary care, and technology that customers can use to adopt pets or print flyers for missing pets. It can also help clients obtain appropriate documents such as vaccine records and licenses for their pets. The non-profit organization helps protect people and pets who leave an abusive household.

Soto said she was confident about the future of the resource center and said people in the community are already showing interest.

“Nobody ever came to our little Mexican community to talk about this stuff when I was growing up, and if they did we would probably say, ‘Who is this? ‘Soto said. “But the church made us so welcome.”

Megan Taros covers South Phoenix for the Republic of Arizona. Do you have a tip? You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @megataros. Their reporting is supported by Report for America and a grant from the Vitalyst Health Foundation.

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