Roger Rushlow is currently homeless, staying in a motel through Vermont’s Emergency Housing program. He is applying to obtain permanent housing for him, his partner, and dog Gizmo through the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity and Section 8 program.
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In order to qualify for many housing programs, Rushlow has to meet a specific requirement: getting Gizmo vaccinated.
The accessibility and cost of pet vaccinations can be a barrier to housing for many Vermonters experiencing homelessness, Rushlow said. This is why he came to the Street Dog Coalition clinic.
A free pop-up veterinary clinic in Burlington
The Street Dog Coalition is a national network that provides free pop-up veterinary clinics for the pets of people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. The clinics treat dogs, cats, and other pets.
A Burlington chapter of the network was founded last year by veterinarian Michele Tulis. The local chapter runs four days of clinics per year.
“All the people that like their animals and they can’t afford everything, this is a great place for them to get the stuff done that they need,” said clinic attendee Eric Young.
We won’t go where we can’t have Gizmo
The most recent clinic was held on Nov. 18 at the First Congregational Church of Burlington. Dozens of people and four-legged friends lined up outside the church for the clinic.
“By vaccinating all these dogs for rabies, we’re hopefully helping public health,” Tulis said. “And getting them on heartworm prevention, so they won’t be a source of heartworm to another dog.”
An all-volunteer team of veterinarians provide vaccinations, exams, tests, and more for the pets that come in. Supplies were provided by the national Street Dog Coalition network, a nonprofit based in Colorado.
“Once this goes through, it actually opens up the door for real housing programs for us, not just this emergency housing. That’s what we really need” Rushlow said. “We won’t go anywhere where we can’t have [Gizmo], so that definitely puts in a situation where we need this.”
Contact April Fisher at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @AMFisherMedia