"Pet Project" Aims to Help Homeless Dog Owners

Nov 16, 2016

Eagle Scout Jacob Regan cuts the ribbon on kennels he and his friends built at Mental Health Association Oklahoma's Denver House. The kennels, part of the association's Pet Project, are meant to encourage people who may avoid help with homelessness or mental illness because their dogs won't be welcomed.
Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Mental Health Association Oklahoma has opened dog kennels at its drop-in center.

They give homeless pet owners a place to put their dog while they get help at the peer-run Denver House finding things like housing, treatment and job training. Homeless Army veteran Melody Whitman was there with her pit mix, Copper.

"I know several people that are homeless, that are friends of mine, that I've gotten acquainted with over the past three or four years out here that they wouldn't trade one day in a mansion if they had to do it without their baby," Whitman said. "Because whenever you don't have anybody else, this is where your love comes from."

Eagle Scout Jacob Regan organized and built the kennels with his friends.

"We took out a bike rack, dug out the asphalt that was there, put up a frame, had concrete poured in, built and then started building up the actual structure," Regan said.

Besides caring for dogs while their owners are in Denver House, the Mental Health Association Oklahoma’s Pet Project offers dog vaccinations and checkups every six weeks. The association’s Stephanie Regan said the next step is developing a foster care system, since the kennels at Denver House are only for a day at a time.

"For folks that need short-term treatment, a lot of times they'll refuse that treatment because there's no place to put their pet where they're guaranteed to get their pet back," Stephanie said. "So, they leave it in one of the current facilities that are around. There's just no — it could be gone or adopted out before they get back."