The ElleVet Project Provides Free Veterinary Care for Homeless Pets

Co-Founders of The ElleVet Project Helping Pets in Need
Christian Kjaer and Amanda Howland, co-founders of ElleVet Sciences and the ElleVet Project, helping homeless pets in need

( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) The ElleVet Project Will Visit 7 States This Summer to Help Pets in Need

ENSPIRE Contributor: Abigail Elcock

The ElleVet Project works hard to provide free veterinary care to the most vulnerable pet populations: the pets of the homeless. This care ranges from food and checkups to emergency surgeries all at no cost to the owners. This summer, The ElleVet Project is excited to visit 7 states including California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, Montana, and Florida. People and pets will eagerly line up to receive treatment outside the project’s mobile RV lovingly called the ElleVan.

The ElleVet Project is the 501c3 nonprofit branch of ElleVet Sciences. ElleVet Sciences is an innovative company with the only clinically proven CBD+CBDA products specifically designed for pets. Through its science-based products, ElleVet Sciences was already helping pets in need. Creating The ElleVet Project allowed ElleVet Sciences to provide further care to pets it could not reach before.

ENSPIRE was eager to ask ElleVet Project co-founder Amanda Howland some questions about this noble cause.

ElleVet Project co-founder Amanda Howland helps a pet and owner in need.
Co-founder Amanda Howland helps a pet and owner in need.

Starting this project in the middle of a pandemic must have been daunting. What inspired the ElleVet Project, and how did the team decide this was worth potentially risking their health for?

It was daunting to start in the middle of a pandemic, particularly when we had very little information about COVID-19 at that point in time, but the pandemic is also the reason for starting The ElleVet Project. We were already aware of the large population of unhoused people in CA and that a good percentage had pets. One of the first thoughts we had, when the shelter-in-place directive came out, was what is going to happen to these pets and people? There is no one out there to help, shelters are closed, and there is no panhandling. How are they going to get through this?

We knew that help could not wait, so we got the project up and running in 3 weeks! The desperate situation of people and pets and the potential consequences made it well worth exposure to COVID. We could give help exactly when it was most needed. Rarely do you get the chance to directly impact and save lives daily. 

You can’t think of the ElleVet Project without thinking of the iconic ElleVan! What originally drove the ElleVet Team to purchase an RV?

The ElleVan! Our home away from home! In 2020, we rented the RV for the summer because that was the fastest way to get our mobile relief effort going. We didn’t have time to find and outfit an RV of our own, so we went the rental route and it was a great decision. We knew ‌we needed to go to where the unhoused populations congregated, whether it be a street like Skid Row or by a riverbed in Stockton. So we needed to be mobile and take everything with us. These are the invisible pets that you just don’t see but have the greatest need for medical care. So we went to them in the ElleVan. My partner Christian and I also lived in the van. After the first year, we purchased the current ElleVan, and we have crisscrossed the country in it several times already!

ElleVet Project co-founder Christian Kjaer Holding a Dog in Front of the ElleVan.
Co-founder Christian Kjaer Holding a Dog in Front of the ElleVan.

How has ElleVet’s mobile strategy helped it reach pets in need? 

As mentioned above, we go to where the unhoused congregate, where those who have no access to transportation cannot get care for their pets. By showing up where they are, we can treat the most vulnerable pets who may never have had a vaccine or any medical care at all. We find that when we show up in an area like this, it might be slow for the first 20–30 minutes, but then word spreads, and people come out of nowhere with their pets and we end up with a huge line. The Van is incredibly important to what we do, and this becomes more and more apparent every year.

While the ElleVet Project frequently helps pet dogs and cats, it serves a variety of other animals too. What are some of the unique or unexpected pets the ElleVet Project has cared for?

We always say we will treat any pet that comes to us no matter what the species, and we have had some interesting patients! We have seen rats, chickens, reptiles such as bearded dragons, turtles, and donkeys, to name a few. If we don’t know how to treat them, our veterinarians will call another veterinarian and ‌solve their medical problem. The unhoused are always hearing no, so we want to say yes‌.

Puppies and Owner Waiting for ElleVet Project's Help.
Puppies and Owner Waiting for ElleVet Project’s Help.

Regarding ElleVet relief missions, you’ve said, “We learned that when we treat the pets, we treat the people as well.” Do you have any stories from the ElleVet Project that show how treating these pets truly helps their owners as well?

So many stories, and essentially every single time we treat a pet, we are helping their owners. One example is a woman who had cancer and was going into hospice. Her partner wanted to ‌bring her dog to visit her every day but wasn’t able to because the dog had not been vaccinated. By giving a rabies shot, we could keep them together. Another woman needed her dog for protection as it is very unsafe on the street for women, and her dog had pyometra, which is an infection of the uterus, which would have been fatal. We could get her dog into surgery that day and save her life. The bond that they had was so strong that losing her dog to pyo would have been both emotionally devastating and dangerous. 

What is the best part of participating in the ElleVet Project?

Obviously, we love animals and being able to help pets that truly need us is incredibly rewarding. Not a day goes by when we haven’t made a significant impact on the life of a pet and the life of a person. As mentioned, it is rare to have such a direct and positive impact and to make a difference right then and there is something I wish everyone could experience. It is the embodiment of making the world a better place, one pet at a time.

The ElleVet Project has the Victor Medical Company and the Annamaet Petfoods as corporate partners. ElleVet has also been publicly supported by many celebrities, including actresses Demi Moore, Sarah Paulson, and Jane Lynch. What do your fans, supporters, and partners mean to you?

It can be very difficult to be on the Project. We see a lot of hard things, and it can be exhausting both physically and emotionally, but our supporters and partners mean the world to us. Hearing all the encouraging comments and getting the support of celebrities who truly love animals and choose to use their voice to lend support and spread the word for us is very moving and inspiring. Every word or comment means so much.

What can people do to support The ElleVet Project and all the adorable pets it helps?

There are many ways to help! Our website has many ways to donate, either a one-time donation or a recurring donation. We have corporate sponsorship opportunities as well. The ElleVet Project relies on donations to fund everything we do, including emergency surgeries. We will never leave a pet that needs surgery or treatment—we could never just walk away, so donations have a very real and immediate impact. Sharing our stories on social media is also a great way to help us reach more people, and we appreciate this greatly. Veterinary volunteers are much needed as well! We are grateful for any and all support for the ElleVet Project.

Through its supporters, The ElleVet Project will continue to serve all kinds of pets and owners. The ElleVet Project has goals to purchase more ElleVans, partner with veterinary schools, and raise awareness about homeless pets. In the meantime, it will keep doing what it does best: help pets and owners in need.

To support The ElleVet Project, here are ways you can give or get involved today! Be sure to follow The ElleVet Project on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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