Animal help desk fields calls from the public

The Animal Help desk at Best Friends helps thousands of people annually with their questions and concerns related to dogs, cats and other animals.
By Cathy Scott

An impressive milestone has been reached at the Best Friends help desk: 100,000 cases in five years. That equates to 20,000 cases a year.

Answering the public's questions about animals

The Animal Help department is where the public goes with their animal questions, which range from how to introduce cats and dogs to how to shut down puppy mills.

Happy story about a stray FIV-positive cat

Here’s a typical case: Recently, a request landed on the desk of Animal Help specialist Medha Isaacs about a home needed for an injured, FIV-positive stray cat a family had caught in Dutchess County, New York. Medha knew exactly what to do: work with and educate the people.

It was a matter of letting the family know that even though a cat is FIV-positive, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. And it doesn’t mean the cat can’t live with other felines. Medha told the family that the virus is not easily spread. In fact, it’s transmitted almost exclusively through serious bite wounds, which meant they would need to be careful when introducing the stray cat to their existing felines.

Medha was successful. Soon after, the wife sent her a note that said, in part, "Our vet wanted us to put the cat down as soon as they found he had FIV, and we just couldn't do that to him. We felt very hopeless not knowing much about FIV, but after reading the information you provided, we have decided to try to keep him."

The case, as Medha put it, is "a good example of how Animal Help’s resources help change perceptions about FIV kitties."

Indeed. The good news is the cat went home with the family and they didn’t euthanize him, as their veterinarian had recommended. The bad news is he passed away a month after they took him in. (It wasn’t because of FIV; he instead died of feline heartworm disease.) But the family had given a formerly stray cat a home, and he lived indoors, safe and comfortable, until he passed away.

The case is just one example of the work Animal Help specialists do every day. Best Friends can’t take in every homeless animal, so the specialists suggest ways that people who call or e-mail can help the animals themselves.

That role, from all appearances, is unique to the animal welfare world. Best Friends has a dozen devoted staff who offer "personalized help for people who need assistance with their animals," explains Liz Finch, manager of the department.

Animal Help department grows

It started years ago with one person fielding the calls and e-mails, and has grown into a full-fledged department staffed by people whose jobs are to simply assist the public with animal-related issues.

Knowing that the Animal Help department works more than 1,600 cases a month is pretty impressive in itself. But when word spread about this milestone, everyone in Animal Help, Liz says, "felt a surge of pride when we realized we had helped 100,000 people over the past five years."

"We really have a remarkable, dedicated team who believe fiercely in Best Friends' mission that kindness to animals truly brings about a better world for all of us."

Paul Berry, CEO of Best Friends, couldn’t agree more, noting, "Some of these cases have multiple animals – sometimes a handful, dozens or even hundreds. That’s a lot of animals being saved."

Check out the Best Friends' Resource Section for help with pet-related challenges.

Photos by Clay Myers