By Chris Nichols, Capital Public Radio
Sacramento County has launched a first-of-its-kind mobile veterinary clinic focused on caring for pets owned by homeless residents.
County veterinarian Cynthia Metcalf will run the program, aptly named the PAWS Clinic, or Pet Aid and Wellness Services. She said the clinic’s mobile trailer will visit local homeless shelters and encampments to spay and neuter pets, administer vaccinations and care for sick and injured animals. She added it is the first publicly-funded program of its kind in the state.
“If we’re able to kind of extend that olive branch and help their pet and develop that relationship with them, then oftentimes that can give them what they need in order to make improvements in their life,” the veterinarian said Wednesday, at an event celebrating the program’s launch at the county’s Safe Stay homeless shelter in South Sacramento.
The clinic will care for pets like Saydie, a 2-year-old dingo who’s become a companion for unhoused resident Keith Marciante, as he looks to turn his life around at the Safe Stay shelter on Florin and Power Inn roads.
Marciante said the care for his four-legged loved one means a lot.
“That’s like the best thing in the world,” he said as Saydie barked and pulled at her leash. “That’s awesome that they have people like that care about us.”
Anna Stark, who also lives at the shelter, said she brought her 16-year-old chihuahua Boe to the clinic on Wednesday to be neutered.
“Boe is my significant other, he’s my buddy,” Stark said, adding the vet planned to examine a cancerous growth on her dog.
“He’s got a lot of life left in him,” she added.
The clinic’s trailer is packed with equipment, from a full surgery bay to scales and kennels for animals large and small.
“We have anesthesia rescue drugs if we have any issues or complications that come up. We do have pain medication,” Metcalf said. “So, pretty much anything you would see in a brick and mortar clinic we have in our trailer. It just happens to be on wheels.”
The clinic will operate twice a week at local homeless shelters and once a week at area encampments. The county maintains an online calendar for PAWS Clinic visits.
The program is funded by a $400,000 federal grant and will be reviewed annually to determine whether it should continue, said Luna Anona, a spokesperson for the county’s animal services.
While the clinic will serve pets owned by unhoused residents, Luna said the county has options for the general public. Those include a monthly clinic that offers free vaccines, microchipping and wellness checks.
The next free clinic is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 10 at Howe Park in Sacramento from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. No pre-registration is required. Dogs must be on a leash and puppies must be held or in containers.
The county has more animal services information online, including for pet owners in need of financial assistance.
This story is part of the Solving Sacramento journalism collaborative. Solving Sacramento is supported by funding from the James Irvine Foundation and Solutions Journalism Network. Our partners include California Groundbreakers, Capital Public Radio, Outword, Russian America Media, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and Univision 19.