WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are up in arms over an initiative in San Francisco that gives dogs to homeless men and women in the hopes of curbing panhandling in the area.
The program, which formally launched Aug. 1 throughout the city, is the proposed solution to a problem officials previously attempted to tackle with aggressive anti-panhandling laws and employment programs, among other methods.
The new program – called WOOF, or Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos – will allow the homeless to assist hyperactive dogs at the city’s Animal Care and Control through foster care in exchange for a small stipend.
Mayor Ed Lee placed Bevan Dufty in charge of WOOF. Dufty, who is also the director of HOPE – Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement – for San Francisco, feels there will be positive effects for both the humans and dogs involved.
“I’m tired of pushing people around,” Dufty told the San Francisco Chronicle. “You can make it difficult for people to panhandle, but ultimately they’re just going to go do it somewhere else. Why not try to meet their needs for income in a way that helps the city and its animals?”
Not everyone sees the bright side, however.
PETA representatives fired off a letter to Lee that called the program “risky at best.”
“Handing over troubled animals to troubled people will save neither, and it places both at risk of injury, further trauma, and a bad end,” PETA was quoted as saying, according to the Chronicle. “Most former panhandlers are financially destitute because of struggles with substance abuse and mental-health issues. [I]t should be out of the question to play Russian roulette with these animals, allowing them to be used as lures or pawns.”
On the official PETA website, the organization states that it has offered the city of San Francisco an amount of money equal to the grant received to get WOOF off the ground – $10,000 – if the city agrees to pay panhandlers to perform other services for the area.
Handing out fliers promoting the practice of spaying and neutering pets was one suggestion offered.