Pet food ‘safety net’ at Pasadena Humane helps pets stay with their families when income crisis occurs

Chloe, Sophia, Rede

Chloe, Sophia and Rede have been helped by Pasadena Humane’s “Helping Paws” program to assist families in caring for their pets during times of need. (Photo courtesy of Laura DiCesare)

One of the most impactful exercises in my social work training during the early nineties was a mini simulation of what it is like to live in poverty. Participants in the training were given a “paycheck” equivalent to a month of full-time earnings at minimum wage. Our task was to plan a monthly budget.

At the time, 50 weeks of 40-hour-a-week minimum wage earnings equated to about $8,500. The poverty line for a family of two was $9,190. While it was challenging to plan for even the basics based on monthly earnings, it became impossible to make ends meet when more hurdles were thrown into the exercise. A child getting sick meant making difficult choices, like going without food to purchase medicine. The math just didn’t add up.

“Helping Paws” provides a safety net of Human-Animal Support Services to assist families in caring for their pets during times of need. The program is one of many resources Pasadena Humane offers in our efforts to be more than a shelter. Our goal is to prevent shelter admission whenever possible.

Since enrolling in “Helping Paws,” DiCesare has been provided free food for her three dogs through the program’s Pet Food Bank. The dogs have also been eligible to receive free vaccines through Pasadena Humane’s low-cost vaccine clinic.

Thanks to this support, Rede, Sophia, and Chloe have stayed in their home, avoided terrifying and heartbreaking separation from their human mom, and enabled Pasadena Humane to focus shelter care on lost, neglected and abused animals that truly have no other resource.

The recent escalation in prices for groceries, gas, and just about everything else will make things even harder for people living paycheck to paycheck. Thankfully, many animal-welfare organizations are ready and able to assist, so pet owners in crisis don’t have to worry about how they are going to feed and care for their pets.

If you would like more information about Pasadena Humane’s Helping Paws Program or if you need pet food support, please call 626-792-7151 or go to

Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on March 24, 2022.