Serving Seniors’ Pet Pals Program helps disadvantaged seniors care for their companion animals by providing free pet food, supplies, and direct financial assistance for veterinary care.


Why We Started the Pet Pals Program

Serving Seniors operates two pet-friendly senior housing complexes which provide permanent, affordable housing to 350 low-income seniors and more than 200 dogs and cats. Across all of our programs and services, we serve nearly 5,000 individual seniors — approximately 70% of them have one pet, many have two.

Many of the pets served by this program are seniors themselves, have lived with their owners for a decade or more, and have formed deep emotional bonds with their people.

In almost every case, we find that our seniors are kind, committed, responsible pet owners who would do anything to keep their pets happy and healthy, including giving them the food off their own plate or going without groceries, prescriptions and other basic necessities.

Our senior clients are extremely low-income, living on less than $1,000/month and paying an average of $750 in rent – leaving just a few dollars a day to pay for food, medication, transportation and other expenses. Many of them are forced to choose between their pets’ needs and their own, but low-income seniors who don’t take care of themselves are at higher risk of developing serious health issues, further limiting their ability to care for their pet.


Seniors Benefit from Pet Ownership

For seniors, who often live alone or in group facilities, pets help reduce stress and loneliness, improve mental health, lower blood pressure, increase social interaction and physical activity and help them remain mentally active.

Study after study and article after article have demonstrated and reviewed the positive health benefits of pet ownership, especially for seniors.


What Pet Pals Provides

Free Pet Food and Supplies

To help our senior clients provide for the everyday needs of their pets, we collect, purchase and distribute a variety of free, high-quality pet supplies, including:

Items are distributed every third Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at our Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center. Items are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to receive supplies, seniors must be a registered client of Serving Seniors, and their unique client ID must be scanned upon receipt of supplies.

PLEASE NOTE: non-food supplies, including beds, toys, leashes, etc., are provided to clients as they are made available to us, and unfortunately, their regular availability is not guaranteed.

Financial Assistance for Urgent Veterinary Care

Senior Man with DogMany of our clients’ pets, who are seniors themselves, experience ongoing health conditions as well as occasional accidents and emergencies requiring medical intervention. To ensure that low-income seniors are able to obtain care for their pets, we provide emergency financial assistance for veterinary care.

When a senior meets with one of our nurse case managers or social workers, their needs are thoroughly assessed, including the need for a pet’s veterinary care. Requests for emergency assistance are evaluated based on the severity of the need and the funds available. Clients must show a recent or outstanding bill from their veterinary care provider in order to make a request. Approved payments will be made directly to the veterinary care provider.


Can I Support Serving Seniors’ Pet Pals Program?

YES! There is a much greater need for assistance than we can currently accommodate: typically, we only have enough resources to serve 40% of the clients who come to us each month.

The majority of our pet supplies are donated in-kind by community partners and individual donors. Serving Seniors can only accept unopened, brand new items and food. To arrange a pet supply drop off, please email Tim Ruis. You can also donate funds to support the Pet Pals Program.

By supporting the Pet Pals Program you’ll ensure that San Diego County’s poorest seniors are able to provide the food, mental stimulation, and quality of life that their animal companions deserve. You’ll also help keep pets in safe, comfortable homes, out of shelters and off the streets. In turn you’ll help promote the physical and psychological wellness of our seniors.