A UNIQUE new program is filling a gap in outer-east mental health services — by catering exclusively for patients' four-legged friends.
Bayswater North resident Naomi Snell, a mental health educator, noticed people often had trouble finding someone to care for their pet while they receive the help they need.
While some could turn to neighbours, family, friends or even boarding kennels to care for that non-human family member, people without these supports were forced to surrender their beloved pet.
To ensure that didn't happen, Ms Snell launched Paws for Purrfect Patient Therapy a year ago, giving the mentally ill peace of mind that their furry friend was being cared for while they were in hospital. "I saw a gap in the mental health service and that was the provision of care for pets," she said. "I wanted to set up a foster care program where we could care for their pets while they're away from home."
The initiative, the first of its kind, also cares for pets of people experiencing homelessness or escaping domestic violence.
Ms Snell said being able to reunite people with their pets was most rewarding. "There's always immense gratitude. For a lot of clients it's their only avenue of support. It's a family member for them," she said. "We fostered for one guy who was in hospital for a long period and now his goal is to become a foster carer for others put in the same situation." The not-for-profit organisation is looking for support. "We need corporate sponsors and donations of quality pet food."
If you want to donate or provide foster care, visit paws4pettherapy.org or call Naomi on 0452 661 726.