By Chesnie Wardell Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service Published Sep 23, 2023 at 11:16 AM

It starts with a knock on a door, and then the question: “Can we help you with your pets?”

The Wisconsin Humane Society’s Pets for Life program exists to spread support and kindness among families with pets in underserved communities.

Ever since the program launched in 2012 with its door-to-door outreach, the nonprofit organization has provided 10,000 residents with free pet care services in Amani, Franklin Heights, Midtown, Metcalfe Park, Harambee and other North Side neighborhoods.

“What we found is that access to animal care resources is lacking in our underserved neighborhoods,” said Jill Kline, vice president of culture and community impact at the Wisconsin Humane Society.

These lack of resources often include veterinary clinics, which create obstacles because of finances, location and other challenges.

Serving the community

The program’s outreach workers spend four hours Tuesdays through Saturdays on door-to-door visits to see if families need their cats and dogs spayed, neutered, transported, microchipped or vaccinated.

Kline said about 1,000 spay and neuter surgeries are conducted annually, with 70% of clients needing transportation to get their animals to the agency’s spay and neuter clinic in West Allis.

Veterinarians from the University of Wisconsin Shelter Medicine Program also come out twice a month to assist the Pets for Life program during home visits by addressing potential medical conditions of the pet.

Jada Garfoot, the society’s outreach program manager, said her organization seeks to serve residents.

“The main way we track our impact is to be present in the community,” Garfoot said.

Initially, residents lacked trust because many didn’t have a relationship with the Humane Society or any other pet-related organizations, Kline said.

Among the program’s loyal clients is Lavonne Lee, who lives near the Columbia Playfield.

Lee recalls one neighbor feeling embarrassed about her dog having matted hair, but she was relieved after Pets for Life team members came to groom the dog for free.

“They have no judgment and whatever services your pet needs, they are happy to help,” Lee said.

Lee has been using the program since it first launched.

The first pet the program helped her with was her 17-year-old cat, Mitch. Though Mitch has died, Lee still uses services for Bentley and Bella, her English Mastiffs.

Without the program, “I wouldn’t be anywhere and my pets would be kind of neglected,” Lee said.

For more information

If you need pet services, call (414) 629-5507. There will be a conversation on your pet’s needs and minor paperwork that will require a signature.

The program primarily serves residents in the 53206 and 53205 ZIP codes, including the Amani, Franklin Heights, Midtown, Metcalfe Park, Harambee, Walnut Hill, Midtown and Halyard Park neighborhoods.

Here’s information about the program and how to apply and donate.