Sometimes referred to as “Meals on Wheels for the Animals,” the Senior Pet Assistance Network (SPAN) provides pet food for low-income, often homebound, senior citizens who need assistance caring for their pet.
Imagine living alone with a beloved pet, your sole and constant companion, but you’re no longer able to feed and care for that pet. Some elderly have been separated from their dog or cat due to the inability to care for it..
And what happens to the animal? Like its owner, it too is often old, making it less adoptable than a puppy or kitten.
The late Adelle Taylor, a Lake Highlands resident, heard from a friend who was delivering Meals on Wheels that some of the elderly recipients were not eating all of their meals, but sharing them with their pet.
In 2006, Taylor and five other volunteers, including Laurie Jennings, Taylor’s daughter, and current President of SPAN came together and established SPAN as a 501(c)(3) organization and began helping the elderly and their companion pet, primarily focusing on providing pet food and delivering it to those in need of assistance.
Three years later, a donor made a significant contribution in honor of a beloved aunt that allowed SPAN to establish Aunt Louise’s Pet Pantry, which is a climate controlled facility where pet food is organized and stored prior to being delivered to SPAN clients by volunteers.
SPAN is funded by private individual donations, as well as grants. Grants received have come from Banfield Charitable Trust, The Doris Day Animal Foundation, and The Dallas Foundation.
SPAN has participated in North Texas Giving Day and Exxon Mobil’s employee charitable giving program and has been supported by area Red Hat chapters at their annual Denim and Diamonds event at Southfork Ranch.
SPAN hosts an annual Pins 4 Pets Bowl-a-thon every August and was able to raise
over more than $6,000 in 2014. Plans are currently underway for the 2015 event.
Today SPAN also assists in the cost of basic veterinary care (vaccines, fecal testing, heartworm testing, and heartworm and flea medication). The organization works with local veterinarians who practice close to where the clients reside.
Laura Palmer, Client Intake and Veterinary Care Coordinator for SPAN, recalls that the organization’s help with the cost of a rabies vaccine allowed one client to keep her pet in her subsidized apartment. (The vaccine was a housing requirement.) Another client avoided having issues with local housing management because her two dogs were brought up-to-date on their inoculations.
To receive SPAN assistance, individuals must be 67 years old and live in DallasCounty on an income of $1,200 a month or less. (Their current oldest client is 97 years old.)
There is a formal written application and interview process. Sometimes there is a waiting list. However, when a spot opens, new clients are accepted in the order that their application is received.
All dogs and cats in the program must be spayed or neutered. If the animal isn’t already altered, SPAN works with the senior to partner with numerous free or low-cost surgery programs available in DallasCounty.
Keeping senior citizens and their pets together is a perfect example of a “win-win” situation. The therapeutic effect, mentally and physically, of pets on people has been proven over and over again and the devoted animal gets to live out its days in a familiar home with its loving master.
If you are interested in making a difference for seniors and their beloved pets, there are many volunteer opportunities with SPAN such as serving on the organization’s board, delivering pet food and providing transportation to and from the veterinarian clinic. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monetary donations are accepted through the website or may be mailed to: P.O. Box 821173, Dallas, TX75382-1173/
SPAN founder Adelle Taylor lost her two-year fight to multiple myeloma on December 28, 2014.
“People never really knew how sick or how badly my mother felt as her concern was always for others,” Laurie Jennings said. “Even with her last stay in the hospital she would have someone dial the phone for her so that she could check on the well-being of a friend.”
Adelle Taylor left a great legacy and she will be missed by the elderly and by the animals that she so loved.