The History of Peace, Love & Paws

 

In November 2013, Dr. Carolyn Karrh, who became a veterinarian as a second, chosen career at the age of 40, started a non-profit organization called Peace, Love & Paws, dedicated to helping the pets of the homeless and indigent community of Denver, Colorado and the surrounding areas. After completing a shelter medicine internship at Colorado State University, she worked in several local animal shelters and developed a deep affinity for homeless animals. Then, while working as an associate for a well-known Denver veterinary hospital, she was consistently faced with the difficult dilemma of not being able to provide quality care for the pets of those who had little to no financial means. Dr. Karrh soon realized that there was a great need for veterinary care in the homeless and indigent community. Even though it was a non-profit hospital, clients were still expected to have a certain amount of money just to have an exam---and it was nearly impossible to help the homeless, as it was a “drain on hospital resources.” It was heartbreaking to watch pet parents be forced to choose between rent and life-saving pet vaccines, to witness people make medical decisions for their pets based on how much money they had, sometimes choosing euthanasia due to lack of financial resources, and to watch homeless citizens and their pets be turned away because they had, literally, no money.

After leaving that hospital after several years (and before starting Peace, Love & Paws), Dr. Karrh first volunteered her time with StreetPetz, a local organization that provided vaccine supplies to veterinarians who wanted to go into the community and vaccinate pets of the homeless. But she soon realized that this was a larger endeavor than expected, as she was unable to provide requested advanced medical care in addition to vaccines and wellness care. The homeless community had no resources for veterinary care for their pets---and they needed it.

At first, when talking with people about starting an organization to help pets of the homeless, many people scoffed at the idea, stating emphatically that “you shouldn't have a pet if you can't afford one.” But Dr. Karrh, a life-long lover of animals and pet parent to dogs, cats, birds, fish, small mammals, etc., believed differently. And she knew there was a need. And having few resources to help the old man on the sidewalk with his chihuahua or the kind woman pushing a packed grocery cart with her cat on top was the final catalyst for starting PLP.

The first clinic was offered in February 2014, at a local homeless day shelter, Father Woody’s Haven of Hope. After talking with the Executive Director there months before, it was clear they both had the same mission, to provide care for those who were experiencing homelessness, and help pets and their owners stay together by keeping them healthy and providing for their basic needs. The first clinic was set up with one veterinarian (Dr. Karrh) and two technicians---about 13 people and their pets came. It wasn’t long before word got out and each clinic thereafter saw sometimes upwards of 60 pets! Gradually, the need for more volunteers became necessary, and PLP now in 2017, after three years, has a volunteer base of about 30 people, offering a once monthly free veterinary clinic to the homeless and indigent at a local church with 4-5 veterinarians, 10 technicians and assistants, and several more volunteers to help with administration and other duties. In addition to having a volunteer mobile groomer each month, PLP has also developed a partnership with Colorado Pet Food Pantry and provides hundreds of pounds of food for our clients at each clinic. We are regularly reminded of how important our services are to this community with thanks yous, hugs and many tears of gratefulness from our homeless and indigent friends.

The basis of our organization is this: we know how important pets can be to our physical, emotional and mental health. In addition to many others who are financially disadvantaged, there is a large Denver homeless and indigent population who have pets---and they love their fur-children as much as anyone else! For many in this community, their pets are their only companions---they provide the unconditional love they often don't receive in the community as a whole, so quite often, their pet parents will forego their own needs in order to care for their animals' needs. Their fur-children are well-loved and deserve proper veterinary care, as they have no control over their circumstances and to whom they belong. Because their parents are often not able to afford veterinary care or often just simple pet needs, we provide basic wellness care, vaccines, pet supplies, food, bathing and grooming, nail trims, ear cleanings, and address minor health concerns.

Our future goal is to open a full-service facility that will provide more services including diagnostic tests parasite testing, bloodwork, other labwork, xrays, hospitalization if necessary and surgeries/dental procedures for pets of those who are homeless or indigent. We hope to be able to help anyone who needs it, regardless of their financial means or ability to pay.

Peace, Love & Paws has been a registered Colorado 501(c)(3) non-profit organization since November 2013.

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Photo credits to Sheryl Greene