Agency Spotlight: PALS a program of Meals on Wheels Central Texas

PrintWho They Are: The PALS (Pets Assisting the Lives of Seniors) program at Meals on Wheels Central Texas provides assistance in caring for the pets of their elderly and disabled home bound clients.  A pet can provide much needed companionship and help to reduce the isolation and loneliness that many of their clients experience.  As one client wrote to them, “God Bless you for thinking about our little pets. I love and adore my kitty more than anything or anyone on Earth. I couldn’t live a day without him.”The PALS mission is to keep clients and their pets together, living at home with dignity.

What They Do:

Pet Food Assistance:  PALS currently provides food for more than 400 pets each month.  They also provide one-time deliveries to clients who are waiting to receive monthly pet food assistance or who have urgent pet care needs.  Volunteers deliver the pet food and supplies to the homes of the clients. This serves a dual purpose: pets get the food they need and clients, many of whom are socially isolated, benefit from interaction with the volunteers.

Veterinary Care Assistance:  PALS provides access to, and payment for, veterinary care.  In order to provide these services, they partner with two other local non-profit organizations: Emancipet and the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation.  Both of these organizations collaborate with us on fundraising for veterinary care. PALS has provided annual veterinary care (exams, vaccinations and preventatives) for more than 450 pets this year alone.  In addition, the partnership with the TVMF allows them to assist pets with larger medical procedures such a heart worm treatment, dental extractions and mass removals.  Volunteers provide transportation for veterinary appointments as well as acting as liaisons between the clients and the veterinarians.

Additional Services: PALS also works with volunteers and community partners to provide services such as grooming, dog walking and trap-neuter-release of stray and feral cats, all at no charge to clients.

How & Why PALS Makes a Difference:

For the estimated 32% of our 3,100 home bound elderly and disabled Meals on Wheels clients who have a pet, their treasured companion is often a highlight of their lives. Pets are someone for them to lavish affection and care upon, and pets give clients unconditional love in return. Because 75% of MOWCT clients live at or below 150% of the National Poverty Level, many cannot afford to provide their pets with a steady supply of pet food or veterinary care. Additionally, because clients have limited mobility, they have difficulty traveling to and from the store (for pet food) or a veterinary clinic. They developed the PALS program to address these issues, and thus help clients and their pets stay together.

Pet ownership often improves the health of seniors, especially those who report feelings of depression or isolation. A 2005 study done by Dr. Namkee Choi of the University of Texas School of Social Work, and a Meals on Wheels Central Texas advisory board member, found that 42% of our clients over the age of 60 showed some symptoms of depression. Pets help socially isolated senior citizens and disabled adults alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression—conditions that can negatively impact their health. Because more than 70% of MOWCT pet owning clients live alone, they are at greater risk of feeling lonely and experiencing its negative side effects.   In addition, a 2013 article details six ways that the presence of pets can improve human health, including lowering blood pressure and decreasing the release of stress hormones.

One of their PALS program clients described the important role that her pets—her companions—play in her life when she sent us this note of thanks: “I love them and love them and love them.  They help my depression and loneliness.  I could not stand to be in my house without them and the love and companionship I get from them.”