NORTHAMPTON — Each year, nonprofit community behavioral-health agency Clinical & Support Options (CSO) encounters clients who choose to sacrifice their own inpatient treatment because they have no one to care for their pets in their absence.
To help eliminate that barrier, the agency is seeking online donations to its Emergency Pet Care for CSO Clients fund at www.csoinc.org/pets. The goal is to raise $25,000, which would provide pet boarding, pet fostering, and limited veterinary care for approximately 20 clients.
“We see clients sacrificing their own behavioral healthcare because they’re afraid of what will happen to their dogs or cats in the meantime,” CSO President and CEO Karin Jeffers said. “We need to be able to build a safety net that will appropriately accommodate client companion animals. We need our client guardians to feel safe enough about their pets that they move forward with their much-needed treatments.”
CSO refers approximately 1,400 clients each year for some sort of extended overnight care, such as a crisis/respite stay, detox, hospitalization, or emergency shelter placement. In each of these areas, there have been cases of deferment centered primarily on pet accommodations.
“We see it a number of times each year,” Jeffers says. “For folks whose pets are considered family members, it’s not an acceptable choice to abandon them. So we’re working to find solutions.”
The issue of pet care as a factor in human health decisions is not a new one. A 2021 Journal of Patient Experience study, “The Impact of Pet Care Needs on Medical Decision Making Among Hospitalized Patients,” found that 63% of respondents “reported challenges securing pet care during a prior hospitalization, and/or knew someone who encountered similar challenges.”
Considering nearly half of all U.S. households (49%) include pets, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Housing Survey estimate, it’s no surprise that pet care is a common obstacle to healthcare.
“Pets are increasingly considered to be valued as family members in American households, and in many cases, the support and comfort of pets contribute to improved owner health and well-being,” the study’s authors note. “However, the responsibilities of caring for a pet may also create barriers to health and well-being for owners, particularly for those who lack adequate resources. Indeed, emerging evidence suggests that pets can factor into healthcare decision making, especially in the case of hospitalization.”
To make an online donation to the Emergency Pet Care for CSO Clients fund, visit www.csoinc.org/pets. Checks can also be made payable to CSO and mailed to 8 Atwood Dr., Suite 301, Northampton, MA 01060.