This Utah animal shelter is a safe haven for owners undergoing drug or alcohol treatment

The program is a collaboration between the Ruff Haven Crisis Center, a nonprofit organization that provides respite care for pet owners experiencing crises, and Odyssey House, Utah’s largest addiction program.

The partnership began three weeks ago, Kristina Pulsipher, CEO and co-founder of Ruff Haven, told CNN.

The shelter largely specializes in short-term stays, making it difficult to work with addiction treatment clients, who often need to stay longer than the 60 or 90 days that pets typically stay at Ruff Haven. Working with Odyssey House has allowed them to “work beyond”.

“Knowing that their pets are safe while working for themselves gives them the added sense of support to focus on recovery,” Pulsipher said.

According to Pulsipher, Ruff Haven plans to accommodate around 10-12 customers through the partnership with Odyssey. The housing for addicts, like all non-profit offerings, is completely free of charge.

The shelter opened in June 2020, Pulsipher noted. While they had no intention of launching during the pandemic, “we happened to open our doors at a very important time when the need was greater than ever,” Pulsipher said. “We saw that need not being met and we thought maybe we could keep pets with their families and keep them away from animal shelters.”

Ruff Haven was founded with a focus on emergency shelters, often for clients who were hospitalized or experiencing domestic violence and other crises. Now the shelter works primarily with clients affected by housing insecurity. And in addition to housing customers’ pets on a short-term basis while they work to get back on their feet, they also provide community animal vaccination clinics and other veterinary care to the local vulnerable community.

The nonprofit organization provides emergency shelters for pets, primarily dogs and cats, through both an inpatient boarding facility and a foster care program. Pulsipher stressed the importance of the team’s “temporary foster positions.”

“These are people who really attract her because they love giving back to the community and know these are people in very vulnerable positions that they could be,” she said.

Fosters “take an animal into their home for 60 to 90 days, sometimes longer,” she said. “They just give them all the love and care that they give their own pets. That gives the animals time to de-stress and not be in a retirement situation.”

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Customers will receive videos and pictures of their pets while in Ruff Haven’s care so they can ensure their furry friends are well taken care of.

The shelter has helped around 510 animals through its Response Program and more than 1,500 through other programs such as their free vaccination and microchipping projects. They currently have 61 animals in their care, either in boarding school or in the foster program.

Pulsipher praised their customers’ efforts to keep their pets away from shelters, even when they’re going through a crisis like hospitalization or homelessness.

“Our customers are animal welfare heroes,” said Pulsipher.


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