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Nonprofit fosters pets while owners receive addiction treatment
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Scott Bailey with his two cats, who are staying with the nonprofit PAWSitive Recovery while he seeks addiction treatment. 

DENVER Snuggles and unconditional love from her pets are a couple of comforts that helped Serena Saunders recover from an addiction to drugs and alcohol. 

“I got sober a year and a half ago, and I know that all the way through my active addiction, my animals have been there for me no matter what,” she said. About one year ago, that companionship inspired Saunders to start PAWSitive Recovery, a nonprofit organization that fosters the pets of people going through addiction treatment but have no one to care for their animals. 

PAWSitive Recovery fosters pets for owners in recovery

Scott Bailey, who has been in recovery from methamphetamines and heroin for the last six months, has two cats that are being cared for by PAWSitive Recovery while he is in sober living.

“I’ve been there for about a month and a half. Prior to that I was in hotels,” Bailey told Rocky Mountain PBS. “This [PAWSitive Recovery] gives them a place so I don’t have to worry about them. I know they’re in good hands. Serena’s great and she gives me updates so I can focus on myself.”

Through the nonprofit, pet owners who go into drug and/or alcohol treatment receive care for their animals along with basic veterinary treatments like vaccines, at no cost. The nonprofit’s fostering program places any animal considered a household pet into a home.

“I’m currently fostering two guinea pigs right now. We take dogs, cats, gerbils, bearded dragons,” Saunders said. “You name it, we can do it.”

The organization also facilitates pet visits at treatment centers so the owners receiving treatment, “gives them something to look forward to,” explained Saunders.

Saunders believes that PAWSitive Recovery is fulfilling a need that’s been around for years when it comes to getting addicts to go into recovery.

“One of the major hurdles that keeps people out of treatment is their animals,” explained Saunders. “A lot of times these people have experienced real trauma in their lives and the animals have been the only thing that’s been a source of constant love and support for them.”

Now, what the nonprofit needs most are people willing to foster animals. The application to foster can be found here

“We need people who are in recovery, or people who are passionate about humans and animals to contact us if they’re available to foster for us,” Saunders said.

For Bailey, knowing his cats are safe while he takes care of himself is one of the things that’s keeping him sober in the early stages of recovery. 

“If I didn’t have [PAWSitive Recovery], I was going to have to take them to a shelter and I don’t think I would have done well with recovery,” Bailey said. “I probably would have relapsed again.”


Dana Knowles is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS and can be reached at danaknowles@rmpbs.org.

Brian Willie is the content production manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at  brianwillie@rmpbs.org.

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