Pet Project Helps Those Living with HIV

Very quietly, for nearly a decade, a unique organization has been assisting persons living with HIV and dibilitating diseases to maintain a partnership with their best friends.

The group is called the ‘Pet Project’, and it is a non-profit organization committed to making sure that people can retain their pets in the face of medical adversity.

The organization provides low-cost food, basic veterinary service, and transportation for those with limited mobility, to vets. They administer vaccinations, and offer foster care when pet owners are hospitalized. They make it so sick people can worry about their health, and cultivate a support system allowing them to keep their animals.

Executive Director, Sue Martino, is proud to say that the organization maintains over 400 animals in the area. “We started out in 2002 with a grant from Robert DeBenedictis. He is basically the founder and each year we receive another grant from the R. N. DeBenedictis Foundation which allows us to cover our administrative costs.”

The organization’s mission was to fill a void left in the lives of people suffering from illnesses. “Our inspiration was to help animals, and fill a need that falls through the cracks. If you have an illness there are social programs and outreach groups. But, there are no programs for people suffering from financial hardships due to medical problems to help their pets out.”

The organization does not place the pets with owners, except when the owner of a pet passes away. “Then,” says Martino, “we foster them and eventually find them a good home. We do adoption when needed.”

Just as important, studies have shown that a pet can add years to a person’s life. If you are elderly or ill, they can motivate and stimulate your mind and body. “Absolutely,” says Martino, “a pet can reduce stress, your blood pressure, and improve your health.”

Martino finds her work to be rewarding, because not only is she helping to maintain the well-being of an animal, but through the pets, helps out their owners. “When you’re sick sometimes the only thing to get you out of bed in the morning is to feed the cat or play with the dog.”

Working with animals is supposed to be fun. Therefore The Pet Project has some unique events scheduled to benefit their cause.

You can support The Pet Project and work out a little bit while you’re at it! On the last Saturday of each month Get Firm Bootcamp will collect $20.00 from attendees and donate it to The Pet Project.

If working out is not your thing you can play Bingo for a worthy cause every third Thursday of the month at The Depot Bar at 1243 NE 11th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale. Pets, of course, are welcome.

Sue is very excited about all of these events but promises that there are more to come. “We have many ideas for future events but none are solid yet.” To learn more about the organization, to donate, volunteer or track their events, please visit their website.