Suffering from a terminal illness and having to surrender a treasured pet can be one of the toughest situations.
The volunteer organization Safe Place for Pets hosted its 4th annual Paws for Celebration event Saturday afternoon at Soda Springs Park in Manitou Springs to raise money to help place pets whose owners are dying in a new home.
"We're helping people who are dying and trying to alleviate the stress of what to do with their pet," said Eve Jones, the placement coordinator at Safe Place for Pets. "A lot of these people have no one."
The Colorado Springs-based nonprofit has served over 500 pet owners with terminal illnesses and their pets in El Paso and Teller counties since its founding in 1996. Currently, it has 50 volunteers.
"Every community needs one of these organizations," Jones said.
Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care partners with Safe Place and recommends the organization's services to their patients and families who have pets that can no longer be cared for long term.
"Most of the time, the owner passed away and the family can't take the pet," said Chelybe McIntyre, president of Safe Place for Pets.
Before a pet is placed in a new home, Safe Place provides an average of $300 for veterinary care, food and supplies, according to the organzation.
"We want to help because the pet has lost everything they've ever known," Jones said.
For owners not ready to give up their pet, but who need assistance, Safe Place also provides wellness care for pets such as veterinary visits, pet walking and volunteers will visit homes to pet sit and play with the pet.
The organization doesn't limit its placements to cats and dogs. It also places bird, reptiles and other animals, McIntyre said.
The organization's facility in Manitou Springs provides temporary housing for up to 12 cats who receive care on a daily basis. Additional cats and all other pets are placed in foster homes until an adoptive owner and permanent place to live can be found.
"These pets came from a loving home and we want them back in a caring home," Jones said.
Through the organization's website and other adoption sites, potential adopters can find their future pet. Safe Place interviews potential owners and has the pet live with them for one week. If all goes well, the final step is adoption.
"We use a 'try before you buy' type of system and that really works for us," Jones said.
McIntyre said Saturday's fundraiser had the best turnout they had ever seen.
"I think this is the best one so far," she said. "We're trying to promote ourselves and integrate all local nonprofit animal shelters so we can all come together to support one another."
Vendors of pet products and services also united to help their furry friends.
"It's a great cause and great place to interact with like-minded people that love their dogs and take care of their pets," said Gina Puzo, vice president of sales at Colorado Springs-based RYKO Pet Gear. The company designs, manufactures and markets products for active dog owners and sold their merchandise at the event.
Fellow pet-lover Ciera Wilson and Maple, her 8-month-old yellow Labrador retriever, also came out to support the cause.
"When I first heard about Safe Place for Pets and what they do," Wilson said, "it gave me goose bumps."