SCOTTSDALE, AZ — After months of planning and renovations, an unused horse barn in Scottsdale is almost ready to make its debut as a "dog hotel" to serve as a temporary shelter for dogs while their owners, mainly people experiencing homelessness, work to find permanent housing.
The program, called "Sit. Stay. Heal," is a partnership between the City of Phoenix, Community Bridges, an organization that provides services and resources for alcohol and drug addiction and mental health, Midwestern University, and Hunkapi Programs, an equine farm in Scottsdale that offers counseling and other youth programs.
Terra Schaad, the founder and executive director of Hunkapi Program, told ABC15 on Tuesday that she works with first responders with trauma therapy at the farm, and through that partnership, the City of Phoenix reached out looking for help with housing the pets of people dealing with homelessness.
Among a number of obstacles, not all homeless shelters accept pets, which can force someone to decide not to seek help.
"If we have this place where we can house a dog, and the people have hope that they're going to get their dog back instead of more hopelessness, like I don't have a house and I don't have my dog, then why wouldn't we do that? I want to be a source of solving the problem," she said.
So, she offered an unused barn on her property. Sixteen stables inside the barn were renovated and turned into kennels capable of housing two dogs each for up to 16 weeks.
Concrete was poured inside each of the stables, barriers were installed, and dog doors were cut in each kennel to give the dogs access to an outdoor shaded area. For the initial run, they plan on accepting 12-15 dogs during the first trial of the program, she said.
"We have a crew of volunteers who is ready to come and give support to these animals and walk them and give them enrichment, give them love, give them food, give them everything that they need in order to be healthy while they're their owners are getting the housing that they need to keep their dogs," Schaad said.
The program launches on May 1.
Councilwoman Laura Pastor said in a news release that the idea for the program was sparked after she met a man whose family was staying at a shelter, but he was living on the street because that shelter did not allow animals or pets.
"This story has stuck with me over the years and put a fire in me to help homeless pets and their owners. Thanks to Terra Schaad, our vision is now a reality," she said in a prepared statement.
Students at Midwestern University will help provide care for the animals while at the farm, as will managers and volunteers, a news release said.
Donations from Phoenix Suns Charities and private donations helped fund the barn's renovations, however, $40,000 still needs to be raised to keep the animals cool during the summer.