Matching Pets to People will soon launch in Bendigo

A new initiative to help pair Bendigo residents at risk of social isolation with a suitable pet is calling for more supporters.

‘Matching Pets to People’ to pair pets with vulnerable people, including those living with mental illness, the elderly, those with dementia, and people with disabilities. It will seek to make its first match in the next few months.

Supporters are hoping to get anyone who can help on board, from vets, to dog walkers, to animal carers, to anyone who has contact with people at risk of isolation.

The program is a partnership between Golden City Support Services, Chally Animal Rescue and business Petcarers.

Sharon Moore, owner of Petcarers, has been mulling over the idea for several years.

Personally, she knew how important pets can be when life gets tough.

“There’s so much good evidence out there about the benefits of pet ownership,” she said.

“There’s physical benefits, there’s mental health benefits and there’s social benefits. 

“I know personally just how much of a lifeline my own pets have been through some mental health issues.”

The people who are really struggling with some of the mental health issues, there’s that reason to get out of bed every single day, and look after another creature. It really takes you out of yourself.

Sharon Moore

After she met John Willis, a Community Development Officer with Golden City Support Services, they were able to get the ball rolling.

As a trial, the service has run ‘Doggy Playdates’, in which rescue dogs visited respite homes.

These have convinced Mr Willis that the program will be a success.

He was a bit unsure how visits would pan out, but was delighted by how quickly residents warmed to the dogs.

“It was fantastic, it was really really lovely,” Mr Willis said.

“The dogs loved it, and the people there really enjoyed the kind of attention that the pets were paying to them, and they were really enthusiastic about having more contact with dogs.”

Mr Willis sees the program as a great way of helping people connect with others in the community.

For rescue animals the benefits of the program are obvious: a safe, comfortable and loving home.

“Pets are partly companionship… they’re also a reason to get up in the morning for some people: to feed their pet and take them for a walk and get them motivated,” he said.

“They’re a great way of meeting other people and connecting with other people socially, when you’re out dog walking.”

‘Matching Pets to People’ will soon run an information session, in the hope of meeting those who may have contact with people who are socially isolated, or are connected with pet rescue.

Ms Moore sees the service as a chance to do good all round: helping vulnerable people, while dramatically reducing animal euthanasia rates in the community.

“In the end pets make us laugh, they engage us,” she said.

“The people who are really struggling with some of the mental health issues, there’s that reason to get out of bed every single day, and look after another creature. It really takes you out of yourself.”

  • Matching Pets to People information session, Monday July 30, 4-5pm Golden City Support Services, 48 Mundy Street Bendigo, RSVP to Sharon Moores, sharon@petcarers.com.au