SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - California's newly adopted budget includes innovative funding to help the animal companions of people living on the streets.
The 2019-20 budget that went into effect on July 1 includes $5 million in grants to fund veterinary and other care for pets of homeless people.
The money would go toward placing veterinarians at qualified homeless shelters to allow those living on the streets to get care for their pets.
Gov. Newsom has promised to make homelessness and the housing crisis top priorities. His $214.8 billion budget calls for $2.4 billion to address those concerns.
The $5 million to help care for pets belonging to the homeless is another component in the effort to address homelessness, according to animal welfare advocates who said they've long struggled with finding ways to make sure the animals living on the streets with their owners are getting proper care.
Newly-released figures show the homeless population in San Francisco is up 17% from two years ago.
The city's Department of Homelessness & Supportive Housing said a one-night count of homeless in January found more than 8,000 people on the streets.
"Homelessness is one of the most critical issues we're facing in the San Francisco community," San Francisco SPCA President Jennifer Scarlett said in a statement. "How to provide veterinary care for the pets of those experiencing homelessness is a problem for many organizations. This funding will help make a significant impact and provide life-saving services to those who might otherwise go without."
Animal welfare advocates applauded the multi-pronged approach, saying it addresses the problem in a compassionate and holistic way. Many pet owners who are homeless tend to avoid homeless shelters as those facilities often have a no pet policy.
"The positive impact on the lives of pet owners experiencing homelessness will rise with this humane and humanitarian effort supporting both ends of the leash," said Gina Knepp, animal care services manager of the Front Street Animal Shelter in Sacramento.
"If we are ever to solve the homeless crisis, we must address the animal component," said Knepp. "Pets are family, the human animal bond is not diminished whether living on the streets or living in a home."