Harley’s Hope offers various services, like vet assistance, pet food pantries, and emergency foster care, to help keep animals and their families together. Harley’s Hope is dedicated to keeping pets in loving homes, regardless of the financial or health restraints of their parents. The organization honors the memory of Harley, Cynthia’s dog who passed away in 2010.
What inspired you to start Harley’s Hope?
Harley’s Hope was inspired by losing our dog Harley to cancer. I had worked in animal rescue for 20 years, so she certainly wasn’t the first pet we lost. However, it was a different experience because by the time she was diagnosed, we were told she had 5 days to live. That process was so difficult, we took her to a veterinary oncologist and went through with treatment which was about $4,000 to prolong her life in any way possible. We were so fortunate to have the means to be able to do that. I knew from my time in animal rescue that many older pet parents and people on disability can’t afford to respond to things like cancer, or even smaller issues like a broken bone. Within a few days of bringing Harley’s ashes home, I started getting the framework in place for Harley’s Hope.
Can you tell me about how your programs help older and low-income pet parents?
Most of the situations we see are animals with medical conditions that the parent can’t afford, so we offer grants for emergency veterinary care and vouchers for medication. Another common issue is people who experience health issues themselves and don’t have a support system to care for their pet. We have emergency fostering and boarding to temporarily house those pets until their parents can return home. During the pandemic, we delivered pet food and supplies to people who were considered high risk. People are biased in thinking that if you have a pet, you should be able to care for it. We want people to be kinder and think about what they would do if they were faced with a crisis with no support.
What are some of the benefits of keeping pets and parents together?
As animal lovers we know how important the bond between pet and parent is. Humans benefit health wise from having an animal in their life, and vice versa. Adoption is the first step in having a pet, but there's so many things that can bring that to an heartbreaking end if the parent cannot afford to fix a medical issue or they have a medical issue themselves. There has to be a middle ground, the only options shouldn’t be getting the pet re-homed or put down. We want to make sure that shelters are kept open for animals that genuinely need to be rehomed. A pet shouldn’t be forced to leave a home where they are loved and cared for simply for financial reasons. That animal may be the reason someone is waking up in the morning. You never know what is going on behind the scenes of someone’s life. We didn’t get our happy ending with Harley, so getting to provide that to other pets and their families is amazing to see.
How do people access your services?
We get referrals from animal welfare organizations, veterinarians, and word of mouth. There’s an online application where we learn details about the pet, parent, and situation at hand. We are looking to help people who have a demonstrated history of taking care of their pet, whether it’s keeping up with vaccines, getting them spayed or neutered— as long as we can see that they’re trying, we want to help. There also needs to be proof of financial need and a veterinary note explaining the pet’s diagnosis and treatment plan. We were working nationally prior to the pandemic, but now we are focusing on pets and people in Colorado. Hopefully, we will be able to go back to a national reach soon.