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Pets owned by homeless get care through Street Dog Coalition

Gary Warth, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

Ryder means the world to Shamus Butler.

"He's my best friend, my companion, my partner, my son, my brother," Butler said about his dog. "He's everything to me, and I want to make sure that he's taken care of before anything. He gives my life purpose."

Butler, 28, has been homeless for about eight years. Wanderlust keeps him on the move around the country and so does following the Grateful Dead spinoff band Dead & Company. He adopted Ryder as a puppy nine months ago after the band's concert in Denver, Colorado, and the two have been inseparable since.

On a recent Saturday morning, Butler spotted a banner for the group Street Dog Coalition outside the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego in Ocean Beach. Inside the courtyard, he found a table with bags of dog treats, food and pet jackets. There was also a team of veterinarians and volunteers ready to give exams, vaccinations and medication to prevent animals getting fleas and ticks.

"I really appreciate it," he told the veterinarians after they administered medication for Ryder's cough, checked him for heart worms and gave him a handmade soft jacket. "You guys did a whole lot more than I expected."

It was the third clinic at the Ocean Beach church, which has agreed to host the event the second Saturday of each month, with the next scheduled for 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Feb. 8.


Veterinarian Jon Geller started the coalition in 2015 to help homeless pet owners he saw around his practice in Fort Collins, Colo. Other veterinarians quickly joined him.

"The reason it's expanded so much is that veterinarians are saying, 'We want to do this,' " he said. "It's taken on a life of its own."

The coalition has expanded to more than 20 states, and San Diego was the 34th city to sign up. Geller said the first San Diego clinic was a trial balloon, and the second was held Dec. 14 in conjunction with Fetch dvm360, a convention for doctors of veterinarian medicine. Since then, enough veterinarians have signed up to form two teams of about four to six each, and another monthly clinic is expected to start in downtown San Diego in March.

Not all volunteers are are veterinarians. Pam Yarberry, a dental assistant, helps with administrative work and coordinating supplies at the clinics.


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