Friends For Life has spent nearly two decades rescuing, rehabilitating and finding homes for animals in the Heights and surrounding areas; and despite a few obstacles, the organization is pressing on as they find ways to adapt with changing times as they begin their 17th year.
Starting out as a small shelter on 19th Street back in 2002, Friends For Life remains Houston’s only LEEDS-certified, no-kill shelter. About 75 percent of animals taken in by Friends For Life are considered “un-adoptable” at other shelters – meaning they would be euthanized for age, health, and behavior issues. But through a few unique programs, the organization is discovering new ways to accomplish their goal of saving as many animals as possible.
The more things change…
As they enter their 17th year, Hopkins said the organization – which celebrated its 16th birthday on June 16 – continues to find their primary obstacle to be finding enough foster homes.
“It’s a lot to ask of someone to take [any animal] into their home, because you don’t know how long or short the stay will be,” said Jennifer Hopkins with Friends For Life.
However, even if someone may not be able to provide a permanent home through adoption, Hopkins said the task is vitally important to the organization’s continued efforts.
“We are foster-based; and that’s the only way we can do all of this – If we can find enough fosters, we can pull more animals and save more lives,” she said. And the organization has recently explored unique avenues of acquainting animals to foster homes
Over the last several weeks, FFL has begun a program with Autumn Grove Memory Care in the Heights, whose owner is a previous cat adopter from Friends For Life looking for a way to involve the organization. Hopkins said Stitch – a dog who has separation anxiety – has taken up residence at Autumn Grove.
“He absolutely loves it there, and the residents love having him around; he’s formed a real bond with several residents. The manager said they haven’t seen [this resident, Roy] ever light up like this before – ever. Roy’s got his best friend around all the time,” Hopkins said. “Yes, it gives us a place for the [animals] to live and get adjusted to living in a home, but the residents at these centers love it so much too. It’s basically a foster home.”
“It gives them exposure to new and different people; it’s a unique program,” she added. “Animals that have lived in homes are well-adjusted when they go to their forever home. They’re constantly getting behavior work in their foster homes; it’s not just a roof.”
Friends For Life has also recently acquired the property adjacent to the shelter off 22nd Street as a site for a future clinic to provide affordable full-service veterinary care, spay/neuter of free-roaming cats and medical treatment for Friends For Life animals.
“We’re not going to put an animal down just because their care is expensive or may take a lot of time – if the animal can be saved, we’re going to make it happen,” Hopkins said.
..The more they stay the same
As always, Friends For Life will continue routinely accepting, rehabilitating, medically treating and adopting into loving homes animals on whom other groups have given up, just as they have since their inception on 19th Street.
From rescue and rehabilitation to necessary medical care, every animal matters is more than a slogan – it’s a way of life. The organization’s one-of-a-kind Thinking Outside the Shelter program also continues working to get resources to people to keep animals out of shelters. Friends For Life distributed over 50 tons of animal food and 1,000 hours of behavior consults to Houstonians who needed help last year so they could hold on to their pets.
Potential adopters fill out an application, and then meet for a brief interview about their living situation with FFL’s adoption counselors, who are trained to go through what will be a good fit for them.
Adopters then have six months to figure which animal would be best for them. Following selection, adopters conduct a one-week “sleepover” to determine how well the animal adjusts to their new environment.
“If there’s ever an issue when the adopter has to let go of the animal, they can come right back into our program,” Hopkins said.
“We don’t want to just find “a” home for these animals – we want to find the right one.”