On Dec. 10, the Mercer Veterinary Clinic and the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital will hold their 16th annual Holiday Pet Basket distribution. The wrapped boxes filled with goodies are given to homeless pet owners who come to the Sacramento Loaves & Fishes, which houses the clinic.
Gifted items include pet food, treats, grooming tools, skin care products, leashes and toys. This year, volunteers expect to hand out 130 pet baskets, 80 for dogs and 50 for cats.
Eileen Samitz, the program’s coordinator, said that she has seen a rise in the need for pet baskets in recent years due to hard economic times. The giveaway began in 1995 with just 25 baskets, but now that number has grown significantly larger.
“Despite all of life’s troubles, the pet baskets still manage to put a smile on everyone’s face,” Samitz said. “People look forward to this every year.”
Samitz said the baskets allow owners to give their pets more than they could otherwise afford. Volunteers, too, are happy because the baskets represent a successful culmination of the year’s endeavors.
The Holiday Pet Basket project is an extension of the work done at the Mercer Clinic. Every second Saturday of the month, volunteers provide free veterinary care to the animal companions of the homeless that reside in the Sacramento area. The volunteers are students, residents and faculty from the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
In addition to providing support to homeless people and their pets, the Mercer Clinic administers a necessary public service, Samitz said. All of the animals that come through the clinic are vaccinated, thus combating disease. Owners are also given referrals to have their pets spayed or neutered as a way control population.
The clinic is one of the few programs of its kind in the country, the coordinator said. It is a nonprofit organization, relying completely on community funds and of donations of supplies from pet stores.
The economic downturn has also meant fewer donations coming into the Mercer Clinic. This affects the amount of critical supplies that can be purchased and the number of services that the clinic can continue to provide. Regardless, Samitz assures that the volunteers at the Mercer Clinic will continue to work with what they have.
“The animals provide warmth, companionship, and sometimes even protection,” she said. “They mean everything to [their owners].”
For those who wish to contribute, monetary donations are accepted year round and are tax-deductible. Funds can either go to support Mercer Clinic operations or toward the project. The donations can be made on Mercer Clinic’s website, or by sending a check by mail.
CHLOE BREZSNY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.