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Friends of Strays offers assistance to keep pets home with their families

Jaymi Butler

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Friends of Strays
The Safer At Home Fund provides financial help for families impacted by Covid-19.

The pandemic has forced many families to make difficult financial decisions, including whether they can afford to keep their pets. 

That’s where Friends of Strays Animal Shelter comes in. The nonprofit no-kill shelter recently created its Safer At Home Fund which offers assistance to Pinellas County residents experiencing financial hardship as a result of Covid-19. 

The benefits of the program are twofold, said Friends of Strays CEO Dara Eckart. Families will get the support they need to care for their beloved pets during a time when animal companionship is more important than ever. At the same time, it keeps more animals at home, easing the burden on shelters.

This is an unprecedented time for all of us,” Eckart said. “ Nobody should have to worry about giving up their animal on top of so much uncertainty.”

Dara Eckart

Since Safer At Home began in late April, it has helped roughly 250 families by providing them with vouchers to cover vet care, spay and neutering, food and supplies. 

Despite the challenge of raising money during a time when public gatherings aren’t permitted, Safer At Home has received plenty of community support. On Giving Tuesday Now, a global fundraising day May 5, Friends of Strays raised nearly $30,000 to fund the program. The nonprofit received another financial boost in the form of a $50,000 grant from the Milkey Family Foundation. In addition to Safer At Home, the money will help support other initiatives, including the expansion of its foster program, a community vaccine clinic and the No Dog Left Behind Fund, which provides resources for dogs who need additional training or vet care before they can be adopted.

“Our fundraising has been through the roof,” Eckart said. 

Friends of Strays, like many animal rescue organizations, has seen an uptick in fosters and adoptions during the pandemic because so many people have been working from home. As people begin to return to the office, Eckart urges them to start to prepare their pets for their absence so no one gets overwhelmed. The last thing she wants is to see is an animal being returned to the shelter.

“This is great for your dogs and cats right now. You’re home and they’re getting all the attention,” she said. “Start taking some time to go outside and take longer drives so you’re out of the house. It’ll get them used to you not being there.”

To apply for assistance through Safer At Home, click here.

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