Jennifer Lengel doesn’t want those who lost their home to lose their pet. The Homeless Hounds program through Puppy Palace of La Crosse gives pet owners an alternative to surrendering the animal by housing their dog at no cost while they search for a new home.
“We’ve already saved 25 dogs from having to go to the shelter,” said Lengel, who owns Puppy Palace, a La Crosse dog daycare and boarding center.
She started the program about six months ago after a Salvation Army volunteer asked if she could help a homeless family by temporarily housing their dog.
“I found out this situation happens a lot, more often than we think,” Lengel said.
Owners of dogs in the Homeless Hounds program must update her weekly on their search for a new home and job. There isn’t a maximum length of stay, but owners should understand that this isn’t a permanent solution.
There isn’t a capacity for the program, but the program averages nine to 12 homeless dogs. Most stay for about a month.
A total of 27 pets have come into the program since it started, Lengel said. Sixteen were reunited with their families, two had to be given up for adoption and the rest, she said, “are waiting to go back home.”
Feedback from owners reunited with their pets “is pretty amazing,” Lengel said.
“I see a lot of tears,” she said.
The program relies on donations to cover the costs of food and medical care to the homeless animals, including vaccinations and spaying or neutering. Each animal reunited with its owner leaves Puppy Palace with a bag of food, a leash and a collar or harness.
Hundreds of homeless dogs would benefit if the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration grants a wish to help the program, which is unique to the area.
Puppy Palace client Heidi Eglash was touched by the program and nominated Lengel and Homeless Hounds.
“It must bring (homeless owners) great comfort,” she said.
Lengel remembered one formerly homeless mother and son who were reunited with their dog after almost three months.
“That dog,” she said, “meant everything to them.”