Magazine article The New American

Pets Are like Family

Magazine article The New American

Pets Are like Family

Article excerpt

When Alicia Obando volunteered at local animal shelters in Chicago, she was overcome by how many people were forced to give up their pets because they simply could not afford to keep them. And as a certified child therapist, she was accustomed to working with families in need and knew the various benefits that having a pet had on mental health. It did not take long for her to realize what she needed to do, and with that, Pets Are Like Family was born.

The program helps families to keep their pets even when circumstances change.

Obando's cause is a worthy one, as research shows that pets help lower blood pressure, lessen anxiety, and boost immunity. According to Blair Justice, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine. "People take drugs ... to raise serotonin and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to get your dog," Justice asserted.

The group's mission reads, "Helping Chicago pet parents have a loving, responsible relationship with their pets by providing education, resources, counseling and referral services; to keep pets with their families and avoid pet relinquishment."

"I just saw people relinquish their pets for reasons that were fixable and saw how sad they were when they had to relinquish their pets," Obando explained. "Just seeing how sad that was and how little education they had about proper care and services is kind of how it happened."

Obando founded the nonprofit organization two years ago and runs it virtually solo. She is always looking for volunteers, and is hopeful that by obtaining media coverage, locals will become more aware of her program and reach out to offer their assistance. …

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