Wisconsin woman starts program to help the homeless and their pets

Jennifer Lengel has always loved dogs. That’s why she started her doggie daycare and boarding facility, Puppy Palace.

Homeless Hounds is not a permanent solution, and most dogs stay at Jennifer Lengel’s facility for an average of one month.

But now the La Crosse, Wis., resident is caring for animals in a whole new way — by making sure struggling families are able to keep their cherished pets. Rather than having to surrender their dogs to an animal shelter, Lengel’s new program — Homeless Hounds — is keeping families together.

Lengel says she was inspired to help when a Salvation Army volunteer asked her if she could provide shelter for a homeless family until they could find a new home. Without assistance, this family would be forced to give up their four-legged friend for good.

“I found out this situation happens a lot,” Lengel explains, “more often than we think.”

Lengel says when she learned more about the problem, she knew she had to be a part of the solution.

“I know not everybody would understand what it’s like to have such a connection with a dog,” she tells WEAU, “but there’s people I’ve seen in here that they would just waste away without their companion.”

Armed with this new knowledge and the inspiration to truly make a difference, Lengel started Homeless Hounds program.

There is no limit on how long the animal can stay at the boarding facility, and owners do not have to pay for the boarding service, but there are certain rules the pet’s owner must follow. Part of the agreement is that they must provide Lengel with weekly updates, letting her know how their job and home search is going, and all dogs are screened before entering into the program.

Owners must also understand that Homeless Hounds is not a permanent solution. Most dogs stay at Lengel’s facility for an average of one month. So far, a total of 27 dogs have gone through the program — 16 are now back with their families, two dogs had to be surrendered for adoption, and the rest, Lengel says, “are waiting to go back home.”

All in all, Lengel says she is excited about the difference Homeless Hounds is making in the lives of those who are facing home and job insecurity — and in the lives of the pets they love.

“We’ve already saved 25 dogs from having to go to the shelter,” Lengel tells the La Crosse Tribune proudly.

In addition to helping homeless families, Lengel has also opened the program to assist the pets of owners who have to temporarily stay at the nearby veteran’s hospital or the New Horizons Shelter, which houses victims of domestic violence.

The Homeless Hounds program is funded primarily by donations, which go towards housing, feeding, and providing veterinary care for the dogs. Each dog is also given his or her vaccines, and is spayed or neutered when they enter the program. When it’s time for a dog to return to his or her owner, they leave Puppy Palace with a bag of food, a leash, and a collar or harness — just a few items to make the transition a little bit easier.

Lengel says her favorite part about Homeless Hounds is getting to see so many happy reunions.

“I see a lot of tears,” she says.

This holiday season, the La Crosse Tribune is partnering with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) to grant wishes for three worthy causes. Puppy Palace client Heidi Eglash was thrilled to nominate Lengel and her Homeless Hounds program for this opportunity.

“It must bring [homeless owners] great comfort,” Eglash says of Homeless Hounds.

Want to learn more about Homeless Hounds and how you can help Jennifer Lengel continue her mission? Visit the Homeless Hounds link on Lengel’s Puppy Palace website, or check out their donation page on GoFundMe.com today. And, starting December 13, you can also help Homeless Hounds win the FSPA 3 Wishes contest by giving them your votes. Visit the 3 Wishes page on the La Crosse Tribune website for more information.

Sources: La Crosse Tribune, WEAU