Cherished Pets leader in providing in-home pet care assistance for older people

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Cherished Pets provides high quality, in-home pet care assistance for older and disabled pet owners living independently in Victoria.

The social enterprise was founded in 2015 by veterinarian Dr Alicia Kennedy with a clear purpose to enable the benefits of healthy companion pets and a thriving human animal bond to be accessible to all people. Their vision is a world where the human animal bond is recognised and valued for the vital role it plays in healthy and connected individuals and communities.

Cherished Pets are also a dual entity: Cherished Pets private veterinary practice (the world’s first certified B Corporation veterinary service, meeting high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability); and the Cherished Pets Foundation, a registered charity that supports their social mission with fundraising and a volunteer program.

The organisation’s social mission is to provide in-home pet care assistance and crisis care to pets of people experiencing vulnerability, specifically older people, those living with a disability, fleeing domestic and family violence, experiencing homelessness and mental health crisis.

“As a veterinarian for over 35 years I have always loved supporting the pets of older people. I have become a passionate advocate for Pets & Healthy Ageing,” said Dr Kennedy.

“I recognised a long time ago that as people go through life phases, the importance of a companion animal and the human animal bond can increase, while capacity to care for them can be compromised. In worse case scenarios I have witnessed some distressing cases of neglect, and I knew this was not from a lack of love, but more a lack of capacity.

She started wondering what we needed to do as a community to support the pets of our elderly neighbours so that they can stay healthy, well and together for as long as possible? The answer came with the creation of Cherished Pets, which allows the introduction of volunteers to support the wraparound care and employing a Community Vet Nurse and Vet Social Workers to provide professional assistance.

Cherished Pets veterinary practice has also established a strong reputation for its special focus on supporting older pet owners.

“As our service is bond-centred in its delivery, we connect to our clients and get to know them,” explained Dr Kennedy.

“Over the years our relationship deepens as does trust, and we see patterns emerge, with periodic health challenges and/or loss of independence. Cherished Pets is there through these difficult times, to provide additional community support, providing our clients with the priceless peace of mind that their cherished pet will be loved and looked after even when they are not able to do so.”

Cherished Pets operates in the Geelong Region of Victoria with around 50 volunteers at any given time providing support in-Home Care Assistance (matching volunteers with older people living alone to walk dogs, transport pets); Respite Care of pets when people are in crisis and/or hospital, Fundraising and Comms; and Board and Governance roles.

“Through our community service in the last year, we have supported over 80 crisis care cases, remote support for 160 people in need and 50 home care assistance clients,” said Dr Kennedy.

“Our vet practice has over 600 clients who are over 65 years of age and we pay special attention to their specific needs, linking them to additional support if and when required. For example, we recently attended a dog’s end of life for an elderly lady who was personally against cremation and wanted her dog buried for religious reasons. However, she did not have capacity to prepare her dog’s grave, so we were able to arrange someone to support her with this through our volunteer community.”

Demand for in-home pet care support

Many older adults receiving in-home pet care assistance come to Cherished Pets via the private veterinary practice, said Dr Kennedy.

“When the need for home pet care assistance is identified, the clinic team can refer the pet/client to our Care Team for intake and planning,” she said.

“Demand for our services have been consistent over recent years, with numbers of participants around 35 at any one time receiving our Home Care Assistance service and many others receiving ad hoc support such as pet transport, emotional support and veterinary assistance.”

Cherished Pets’ in-home pet care assistance service provides wraparound care with:

  • Volunteer matching
  • Community Vet Nurses doing the rounds, supporting with pet wellness, nutrition and health maintenance
  • Emergency Care Plans
  • Vet services: access, support and financial assistance if required
  • Transport and transfers
  • Respite care
  • Rehoming and planning when people die/move into permanent care (if they can’t keep their pet)
  • Advocating to keep them together beyond the move
  • Behavioural and nutrition support for pets
  • Connecting to other services if the needs arise
  • Bereavement support and end of pet life services

“Every pet in this program receives a comprehensive health and behaviour plan, with support coordinated when needed,” said Dr Kennedy.

“Our Cherished Pets Community Hub is a place for connection and engagement. As our official “home” we use this space for volunteer training, community events, pet memorial gatherings, bereavement support and meetings. It’s a place to gather around a shared love of pets.”

Cherished Pets is recognised natonally for its leadership in providing home pet care assistance for older people.

Dr Kennedy adds, “We know from our work in the community how essential these home assistance services are. It is my dream to see pet services integrated into My Aged Care and home care funding programs. The evidence is there of the social benefit of these services for our broader community. When we are supporting pets of older people, we are enhancing healthy ageing, quality of life and community wellbeing.”

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