Pets in the Park (PITP) aims to support, build relationships with and improve the wellbeing of homeless people in society living with animal companions. Many people who are experiencing homelessness own pets that play a significant role in their lives. These much loved pets offer unconditional love, companionship, emotional support and security; basic human needs that are often not met elsewhere. Although pet ownership greatly enriches the lives of those who are homeless, it also comes at a significant financial cost. Annual vaccinations, flea treatment, routine worming, and de-sexing and microchipping an animal costs hundreds of dollars.
PITP is a registered charity with DGR (deductible gift recipient) status that runs free monthly pet health clinics in Darlinghurst and Parramatta and free quarterly de-sexing clinics. PITP is run completely by volunteer veterinarians and veterinary nurses, and strives to provide emotional and educational support to owners and practical help to their pets in a social and friendly environment. By reducing the financial burden of pet ownership, and by promoting access to human social services by operating in partnership with established providers such as Rough Edges Darlinghurst, PITP aims to make a difference to both animals and people in Sydney experiencing homelessness.
In 2012 Dr Mark Westman, Vicki Cawsey, Dr Leah Skelsey and Linda Warlond collectively realised there was an urgent need for a service dedicated to caring for the pets of those experiencing homelessness.
The four co-founders united their passion, drive and determination to develop PITP and involve strategic partnerships with human service providers, including soup kitchens and outreach cafes, and a referral system working with social and case workers of the homeless.
This model was based on an outreach program started by Dr Mark Westman in Prince Alfred Park, Parramatta in 2009 when he took a fold out table and an esky of vaccinations and started free veterinary checks for homeless clients at a Stepping Stone Community soup kitchen in Prince Alfred Park.
Today, PITP is a national charity and is dedicated to caring for animals owned by people struggling with homelessness, thanks to the support of many volunteer veterinarians, veterinary nurses, corporate partners and generous members of the public.
Darlinghurst PITP (NSW) was launched at St John's Church in 2012 by Vicki Cawsey, Linda Warlond and Dr Leah Skelsey.
Parramatta PITP (NSW) was launched at Prince Alfred Park in 2012 by Dr Mark Westman.
Frankston PITP (VIC) was launched at Frankston Park in 2015 by Dr Lucy White, Emma Tarlinton, Steve Phillips, and Dr Mark Kelman.
Melbourne CBD PITP (VIC) was launched at Wesley Uniting Church in 2016 by Dr Joycelyn Tran, Dr Rebecca Bugg, Carol Addicoat and Dr Mark Kelman.
Brisbane PITP (QLD) was launched at the Salvation Army Hall in 2016 by Dr Jackie Campbell and Katie Winston.
Canberra PITP (ACT) was launched at the Early Morning Centre in 2017 by a team of dedicated Canberran volunteers including Dr Dilly Abeyawardane, Fiona Russell and Heather Bates.