Paw Project, part of a young Sandy Hook victim’s promise, helps older people keep their pets – Hartford Courant

A program meant to honor a Sandy Hook Elementary School first-grader’s promise is helping low-income older people keep the pets they love.

The Senior Paw Project, a program of the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown, recently expanded into Newington and is now established in 24 Connecticut towns, organizers said. The program provides pet food and veterinary care to older residents who are struggling to keep or care for their cats and dogs.

The animal sanctuary memorializes a blue-eyed girl who was one of 20 children killed in the Sandy Hook disaster on Dec. 14, 2012. Catherine Hubbard, 6, was so determined to protect animals she made business cards for Catherine’s Animal Shelter and whispered to captured butterflies, before letting them go, “Tell your friends I am kind,” her mother and sanctuary executive director Jenny Hubbard said.

“Catherine pledged to every creature that they would be protected and safe,” Hubbard said. “The sanctuary is that pledge honored.”

The Senior Paw Project is a referral-based program, partnering with municipal and nonprofit senior-housing providers, food pantries and veterinarians. Over the last three years, the program has supported more than 300 pets of older adults and provided about 325,000 pet food meals, organizers said.

For many older people on fixed incomes, financial pressures of pet ownership can compound emotional and physical stress for both the owners and pets, program organizers say. Often these animals end up in shelters, adding to the nearly 7 million animals relinquished every year.

“No pet owner should have to choose between feeding themselves and their animal, or give up their pet due to financial hardship,” said Hubbard, who is also the mother of a 17-year-old son.

Since many seniors living in affordable housing are not car owners, the program includes mobile veterinary service, providing vaccines and wellness visits to residents in their homes. Food also is delivered, Hubbard said.

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Program participant Renee, 65, of Newington, who asked that her last name not be used, rated the program an “A-plus-plus-plus.” The mobile vet service came to her home to see her greyhound, Gia, and they were “excellent,” she said.

The Senior Paw Project is established in Western Connecticut and the plan is for a slow and steady expansion eastward that assures sustainability, Hubbard said. All clients receive services as long as they need, she said.

The sanctuary was created when the state awarded the foundation 34 acres of farmland in 2014. Part of the former Fairfield Hills State Hospital grounds, the land had been used to grow potatoes and raise chickens, among other uses.

Since its inception, the nonprofit foundation has raised more than $6.5 million to support programs that also include a pollinator protection initiative and free community seminar focused on animal care and environmental protection.

Currently all on-site programs are run from tents, Hubbard said. Building projects in the works include a veterinary in-take center, learning barn and library.

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Jesse Leavenworth can be reached at

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