TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Over the past year, the Ithaca chapter of Street Dog Coalition has served 189 patients with critical medical care like parasite screening and control, basic vaccines and arthritis care for senior pets.
The Street Dog Coalition (SDC) is a national nonprofit organization that works to increase the quality of life for pets of people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness through free medical care and services. The local chapter began in 2018 after Catherine Cortright, an internal medicine specialist at VCA Colonial Animal Hospital, saw the need to provide services to pets who came into REACH Medical clinic with their owners.
The ISDC team also consists of volunteer veterinarians, vet techs, assistants or vet students, as well as administrative support.
Jeremy Eule and Cecilia Murch, graduates from Cornell and Tufts University respective veterinary schools and members of the ISDC, presented on the coalition’s mission services at the Feb. 1, 2023, Homeless and Housing Task Force Committee Meeting, which can be watched here.
“We are trying to help the animals, help the people and also the environment, but Street Dog really focuses on the animals and people,” Eule said.
Murch said that SDC estimates that between 5 and 25% of homeless individuals have pets, which are often well cared for.
“We hear time and again that people really strive to provide excellent care for their pets — a lot of people will tell us that they work to secure food and medication for their pets, often before themselves,” Murch said.
Nationally, more than 100 veterinarians and 500 volunteers are involved in the coalition.
Clinics offered by ISDC began originally as a tent in front of REACH Medical, later moving into Shaggy Dog Grooming located at 411 Taughannock Blvd. on the first Monday of each month, between 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Eule said that there’s a range of clients that attend each clinic, with some repeat owners and pets.
Wellness exams, core vaccines, flea, tick and heartworm screening and medications are provided free of charge, as well as spay/neuter vouchers in collaboration with the SPCA of Tompkins County.
“We treat some minor illnesses and some chronic conditions, like allergies that come up seasonally or year-round,” Murch said.
Since 2018, ISDC has seen more than 430 pets, 73% of which are dogs and 27% cats.
Aside from basic care that can be provided at the clinics, Eule said that ISDC helps coordinate care for more involved care that requires additional medical equipment and services.
“We try to help in terms of facilitating the case transfer, communicating with the doctors who are working [at Colonial], we try to help with transportation when possible,” Eule said. “We do try to cover the funds of the diagnostic and treatment.”
Over the past three years, ISDC has helped with approximately $8,200 worth of care, which comes from an angel fund associated with VCA. “It is running out, that angel fund, so we’ll be turning to fundraising,” Eule said.
Merck Animal Health, The Salvation Army of Ithaca, Six Mile Creek Vineyard and Cornerstone Veterinary Hospital are other ISDC partners.
Moving forward, ISDC is in need of help with administrative roles, patient care and transportation. “It’s stuff that we need help with, and it doesn’t require too much additional training,” Eule said, adding that the ISDC hopes to expand its clinic offerings with more dates and additional services.