Ruff Haven gives shelter to pets while owners look for homes, jobs

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SALT LAKE CITY – Many people, including pet lovers, are experiencing homelessness for the first time because of the pandemic. Most homeless shelters don’t allow pets, so what happens to these beloved dogs and cats? A new group is looking out for animals and the people who love them.

For Lauren Langley, her cats are family. “I am already the crazy cat lady,” said Langley, who lives in South Jordan. She got Flo from the Humane Society.

“Anytime I’d pack a suitcase, she was on my suitcase telling me not to go,” Langley said.

And Peaches was an orphan.

“She was actually a street cat, found as a kitten at just 4 weeks old, pretty much just skin and bones,” she said.

“Started with my job. I lost my job, just couldn’t afford our apartment, bills, day care, really anything,” she said. “So, just kind of one thing after another, lost almost everything.”

If not for a new nonprofit, Ruff Haven, she might have lost her cats, too. “I’ve been going crazy without them,” Langley said.

Langley hasn’t seen them in three months, but she knew they were safe.

“They’re everything to them,” said Kristina Pulsipher, a social worker and co-founder of Ruff Haven.

She saw the need for a free pet shelter for people with medical or substance abuse issues, or who are homeless.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in situations where clients have lost their jobs, or have been evicted, and have really struggled to find a place and they don’t want to lose their pet,” she said.

Ruff Haven provides 60-90 days of temporary sheltering at a boarding facility or a foster home. The group is keeping pets out of animal shelters and reuniting them with their owners.

“(To) see them go and recognize them again, and go back to them again, it’s just like this whole other level,” Pulsipher said. “It’s been wonderful to kind of see that.”

Now in a new job, with a new apartment, “Should I get them out?” Langley is finally taking them home. “I am so happy. She’s my little fatty,” she said, holding Flo.

“Everyone deserves to have the companionship of a pet,” Pulsipher said.

When Langley first rescued her cats, she had no idea they’d one day all need a little extra help.

“Thank you so much for everything,” she told Pulsipher before getting into her car.

Taking care of pets, and their people, too.

“Everyone should be able to experience the love of an animal,” Pulsipher said.

If clients can’t take their pets back at the end of the 90 days, Ruff Haven helps them find new families for the pets.

They need more foster families, especially for cats. They’re also helping host a free drive-through vaccination clinic for dogs and cats from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13th, at Dogs All Day at 1370 S. 400 West in Salt Lake City.

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Heather Simonsen
Heather Simonsen is a five-time Emmy Award-winning enterprise reporter for KSL-TV. Her expertise is in health and medicine, drug addiction, science and research, family, human interest and social issues. She is the host and producer of KSL-TV’s Positively 50+ initiative.


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