“Our mission is to keep families together, one dog at a time”
– Kim George, Founder of Kane’s Krusade
When Kim George’s dog Tess was diagnosed with cancer, Kim refinanced her house to pay for chemotherapy and counted her blessings for having the equity to leverage. The treatment Kim was able to afford allowed Tess to live five more years and the situation led Kim to think about dog owners who do not have much money or access to credit. What do those folks do when their dogs get sick or injured? What happens to people with pets when they lose their jobs? What do people do when they can’t find housing because of the breed of dog they own? Kim George founded Kane’s Krusade, named for Tess’s adoptive brother ‘Kane’, to help people who face these challenges. Out of adversity, Kim George created an organization that helps alleviate the suffering of other families with dogs in need.
Team of Krusaders:
Kim George with board member Hannah Chapman, volunteer Rafael, & Kouncil Co-President John
John, a volunteer and leader within Kane’s Krusade, shares his story and proudly refers to the organization as “family.” He says: “So, I have been with Kane’s for about four years now…the family. I had lost my house and was in motels for about a year, back and forth…Don’t know how we made it but we did. My girlfriend ended up calling Kim and Kim came right to the motel and helped us out with food for the dog and everything else and after a while they found us an apartment that was willing to take the dog. We’ve been there ever since then. Now I am giving back every chance I can. It’s a beautiful thing.”
John and his girlfriend Linda had fallen on hard times during the most recent economic downturn. Unable to keep up financially, they made the difficult decision to move out of their home. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, John and Linda were running out of options. It is difficult enough to live in a motel room, but when you have a dog, the challenge is even greater. Because John had a pit bull, prospective landlords shied away from renting to him. Then Kane’s Krusade stepped in and connected John with a landlord who was willing to accept John, his girlfriend and their dog. Extremely grateful, John has become a leader within Kane’s Krusade to help others in the same way.
The Kane’s Krusade Difference
Kim George says that two things make Kane’s radically different from other organizations: The first is that Kane’s Krusade is the only organization that goes right into peoples’ homes. She says “We see our families every month. We are a group of dog lovers helping one another. These folks invite us into their homes, they trust us. Many of the people served by Kane’s are the disabled, veterans, and the elderly.” The second difference is that Kane’s Krusade focuses on surrender prevention and harm reduction. Kim describes surrender prevention as “approaching all the primary reasons that lead people to give up their dogs.” Harm reduction means doing “what you can do – being a realist – you can’t solve the problem, you can’t make it all better all the time but you can reduce the harm an animal experiences.”
Kane’s operates through referrals. For example, Animal Control may get called to a home with few resources and note their dog appears undernourished. Seeing no signs of abuse or willful neglect, they may want to help the family, but have no budget for those situations. In the past, Animal Control had no options for providing help, but now they can call Kane’s Krusade. Upon receiving a referral, Kane’s volunteers visit the family and fill out a 5 page intake packet to assess needs. With a completed intake in hand, Krew Members decide how Kane’s Krusade can best help the family.
Meeting Families Where They Are
If they qualify under Kane’s income guidelines, the family may receive monthly deliveries of dog food. During the intake, information comes to light and Kane’s Family Krew Members may learn the family dog is outside for long periods of time. In such a case, Krew Members would address issues that have led to the dog being outside, and may offer a crate to the family along with behavioral/house training. The goal of Kane’s Krusade is for the dog to live inside. When there are just too many obstacles for that to happen Kane’s may offer to lease a super-insulated Kane’s Kondo to the family so the dog will have shelter from the elements. This is a harm reduction strategy. It may not be a perfect solution but a Kane’s Kondo provides much more protection than an average dog house.
The latest iteration of the Kane's Kondo
Paying it Forward
When people glance at the organization, “they think we’re just feeding dogs. But what we’re really doing is saying to people in the community: ‘you matter, we care, your pet is important to you and you are important to us.’” John adds “a dog isn’t just a dog. It’s a family member.” Kim George is convinced that “Everybody wants to contribute to meaningful work. Everybody wants to have purpose. Everybody wants to feel good. And most people do not want a hand-out.” Families pay Kane’s back not in the form of money but by giving their time and talents to assist other families that seek help from Kane’s Krusade.
Each month, participating families meet at Family Kouncil Meetings to discuss fundraising events, logistics regarding deliveries of food and other supplies to families, transportation to canine medical appointments and whatever else needs to be done. Kane’s Krusade has evolved to a point where Kim George no longer has to be the driving force behind the meetings. She is able to sit back and allow the co-leaders to run them. Kim remarks that it’s a beautiful cycle that has been created: “a group of dog lovers helping one another”.
Kane’s Krusade Surrender Prevention Activities
Currently, Kane’s Krusade consists of around 60 families and the organization provides food and a C.A.R.E. Kit for 80 dogs every month. C.A.R.E. Kits (Canine Assistance, Resources, and Empowerment) include food/treats, toys and equipment such as a collar, a leash, etc. These packages are filled with the size of the dog in mind and specifically tailored for any special dietary needs.
The Tennant Advocacy Program is headed up by Board Member Paul Jenney, an expert in the field of tenant rights and landlord responsibilities.
Kane’s has agreements with different property managers in Springfield. This means that if a family passes all of their other screenings, and they have a dog, even if it’s a pit bull, the landlord will rent to the family because the family is part of Kane’s Krusade.
Kane’s Krusade will advocate for families in housing court to help families keep their homes and thus stay with their dogs
Kane’s Krusade recommends insurance companies that do not discriminate against certain breeds of dogs so that people can obtain liability and renter’s insurance.
Emotional Support Dog Designation – Through the American Disabilities Act, people with diagnosed mental health disorders such as PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, Autism, etc. can qualify to have an Emotional Support Dog. Kane’s Krusade has been able to help people with mental health challenges to navigate the system and coordinate with mental health providers to qualify to have an Emotional Support Dog.
Sometimes families have dogs that manifest behaviors that put housing at risk. In such a case, Kane’s Krusade will provide a trainer to go to a home to show all family members the strategies for managing canine behaviors.
If a family decides they want to have their dog spayed or neutered, Kane’s Krusade will schedule that procedure and will also help with necessary vaccinations free of cost.
Emergency medical expenses for dogs are no joke. If you have ever brought your dog to a clinic or hospital for an emergency, you know the bill is $100.00 just for entering the building. When people of modest means face those situations, they may have to choose to euthanize their dog because saving him is beyond what they can afford. In such a case a family may seek help at an animal shelter but that help often comes only if the family agrees to surrender their dog. The dog’s life may be saved, but the family loses their dog either way. This is why Kane’s Krusade will help qualifying people with emergency medical care for their dog.
Kim George says “We are challenged all the time by difficult situations. Nothing is ever black or white, its shades of grey. And we live in the grey.” She goes onto say that nothing is accomplished by getting upset with people about what they are doing or not doing for their dogs. Kane’s Krusade is about working with people to improve the lives of their dogs. “Nothing is ever perfect”, she adds. John joins in, “Every situation is a different situation.” He goes on: “Kim the founder, she comes up with things that…I don’t know how she does it. We (volunteers) get into a place where we are unable to do something. Kim gets on the phone. Kim makes the calls. Kim talks to people. A half hour later, Kim will say ‘We’re all set. Let’s get the family there.’ This is what is amazing about Kim. I’m not just saying this because she is a friend, but this is amazing. Kim knows a lot of the animal community, knows a lot of people that deal with animals, pets, dogs and so far, for the time I’ve been a part of this, I think I’ve seen one time we were unable to help because of the high medical cost. Every other time, Kim gets on it and makes sure that the animal gets the right medical treatment, whatever it needs. It’s amazing. Kim will take that extra step to help.” Not missing a beat, Kim responds: “Thank you. That stresses though the collaboration. We work so well with the wonderful animal community we have here. Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control and Adoption, Dakin Humane Society and their Spay/Neuter Clinic, Second Chance Wellness Clinic. There are so many wonderful resources and I’m proud of that because in other communities you can see animal groups fighting for turf. We (in Western Mass) all work really well with each other and respect each other and we have one common goal. For us, because we only work with dogs, is to keep that dog with its family.”
From a personal struggle to help her own dog was borne a movement, a crusade to bring others together. When asked how she turned personal adversity into an organization benefitting some 60 families, Kim George simply states: “That’s how I’m built.” As John mentions, when he and Krusade Krew Members get stuck in their attempts to help a family, they turn to Kim for some extra support and guidance. Otherwise, Kim George is happy to watch the organization grow, as families help keep families together one dog at a time.
Please check out the Kane’s Krusade website and tune into their Facebook page to see what you can do to help Kane’s Krusade keep dogs and their families united. Link: http://www.kaneskrusade.org