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Towson Veterinary Hospital offers shelter to pets of homeless people during cold

As homeless shelters work to get people off the streets during this week’s cold snap, one Towson veterinarian is offering to do the same for their pets.

Towson Veterinary Hospital, at 716 York Road, will open its doors to the pets of people experiencing homelessness during extreme cold weather this winter, owner and veterinarian Dr. John Fioramonti said.

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“We balanced everything out and decided it’s a smart, proper thing to do for pets that need some help,” Fioramonti said.

With temperatures well below freezing, Fioramonti said, pets “need to be inside or in a heated, protected enclosure.”

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No pets have come in since the policy was decided yesterday, Fioramonti said — but if any do, the veterinary hospital and pet boarding house is ready.

It has set aside a separate area to board those pets, in case the animals have contagious diseases, Fioramonti said. If an animal that comes in needs basic veterinary care, Fioramonti said his practice is likely to provide it at no charge.

Seventeen Marylanders, including six in Baltimore, have died as a result of cold weather this month. Thursday's single-digit temperatures have prompted more people to seek refuge at homeless shelters and created train delays.

The idea, Fioramonti said, came from the Jarrettsville Veterinary Center, which has opened its doors to pets in need of temporary shelter for years.

Jennifer Taylor, practice manager at Jarrettsville Veterinary Center, said the service is typically used by people who have to temporarily go to a shelter or stay somewhere that does not allow pets — during weather evacuations or when a home’s heat is broken, for example.

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“We would never want someone to have to make the heartbreaking decision to surrender a pet during extreme weather to a shelter,” Taylor said. Her practice offers a temporary option, allowing people to be reunited with their pets when the weather emergency ends, she said.

In Jarrettsville, as many as 15 pets have stayed in the veterinary center at once, Taylor said, adding that the services are paid for through donations to the practice’s Good Samaritan fund.

Fioramonti said he contacted the county police’s Towson Precinct to let them know that if they encounter people experiencing homelessness who have pets, they can direct them to his practice.

Towson Precinct Capt. Jan Brown said his officers do not know of anybody in Towson who is homeless and has a pet, but are being told about Fioramonti’s offer in case they encounter someone.

The veterinary hospital will hold pets until the weather warms up next week, Fioramonti said. He plans to offer the service if the temperature drops again this winter.

Fioramonti has no idea how many people will take advantage of his offer. “I hope we don’t [get anyone in] from the standpoint that I hope there aren’t any animals out there that need the help,” he said. “But I think there are.”

“Our staff couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought of this five or 10 years ago.”

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