TODAY   |  July 30, 2013

New program helps homeless families keep their pets

When pet owners fall on hard times, many are forced to give up their four-legged friends, but a new national program called PetSmart Promise is working to help homeless families keep all members of their families together. TODAY’s Natalie Morales reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> and now to our series hope to it and the inspiring story of the unbreakable bond between a family and it's beloved pet.

>> a lot of pet owners have fallen on hard times losing their homes and unable to take care of their four legged friends.

>> but instead of giving them up a new program is helping homeless families keep everyone together.

>> like many doting pet owners she considers her dog family . her mixed lab baby girl now 16 years old has been by her side through the births of her two sons marcus and c.j.

>> she is always with them. like a sister outside playing. we love her so much.

>>> earlier this year, shana was let go from her job as a medical assistant . unable to make ends meet they were forced to leave their home.

>> we had nowhere to go. we stayed in a car for two weeks. no one would take her.

>> they tried calling local shelters.

>> they were like no exceptions. we can't take your dog.

>> and she faced a heartbreaking decision.

>> i told marcus that we might have to get rid of her.

>> that's where family promise came in. the phoenix area chapter recently partnered with petsmart to create a new shelter for displaced families. one that keeps people and their furry friends.

>> it kept our family today.

>> it's massively beneficial for the family and the wellbeing of the children.

>> it's a philosophy current residents appreciate for their service dog joey .

>> when i was very sick, he would just be right there by my side. it's like he sensed everything that was going on.

>> on site kennels house animals like joey . they're given food, baths and access to medical carefree of charge.

>> we're in an apartment with two other families and we can walk right across there and see him. billy goes in there and hangs out and plays with him. it's incredible. we can spend an hour or two hours, whatever with him. i have so much faith. i knew something good would happen and it did. joey is happy. billy's well taken care of. they make sure we have plenty of food, toiletries, whatever we need.

>> they are the first family to graduate from the program. shana is back at work and the whole family is living in transitional housing.

>> we want to help homeless families get back on their feet and if having their pets with them helps accelerate that process, that's all we want to do.

>> and good news petsmart is currently working on sil shelters in montana, north carolina and texas. they plan to expand nationwide. such a necessary service.

>> absolutely. we'll be back in a moment. but first this