When the deadly respiratory infection Streptococcus zooepidemicus — commonly known as “strep zoo” — was discovered in an East Valley location of Maricopa County Animal Care and Control in January, director Mary Martin knew just who to call.
“Every time there is a need, we can call on Two Pups Wellness Fund to help us,” Martin said.
Two Pups is a nonprofit founded in 2017 to provide financial assistance to injured, neglected or abandoned animals that require life-saving care. Founder Nancy Silver said she first had the idea for the organization while spending considerable time at a veterinary hospital when one of her own beloved dogs, Miss Lacie, was receiving medical care.
Though Silver was able to afford Miss Lacie’s expensive treatment, she said seeing other people agonize over the decision of whether they could afford to save their pet made her want to do something.
“It just broke my heart watching these people and their sick dogs,” Silver said.
A few years later, Silver and her family — who have been members of Congregation Beth Israel since 1956 — got together with other animal lovers and started Two Pups. Silver said the organization was named in honor of two of her deceased dogs, Miss Lacie and Mr. P.
Bip Haley, the head of Two Pups’ day-to-day operations, said the group, in conjunction with the Arizona Community Foundation, helped fund care for 140 animals in 2017. It is funded entirely by private donations.
While Two Pups can only give money to formal organizations, it is able to help individuals who have recently adopted or are planning to adopt an animal.
“Shelters often have situations where a dog will be going to a person, they want to adopt it, but they don’t want to adopt it sick or injured,” Haley explained. “The shelter will contact us and say, ‘Can you help this individual’s family?’ We will say yes, as long as we can run our finances through the shelter.”
Since Two Pups’ launch last March, Martin said the organization has “changed the culture” of Maricopa County’s animal control.
“We are the third-largest animal sheltering system in the country, and for years there was a culture of ‘Sorry, can’t do it,’” Martin said. “Now there is a culture of hope.”
When the first case of strep zoo was recently discovered, Martin wasted no time in contacting Two Pups, which quickly cut a $25,000 check to cover the facility’s expenses in curbing the outbreak.
“It starts as an upper respiratory infection,” Haley said. “If you don’t catch it soon enough, within 48 hours the dogs die ... It has killed entire shelters within two days.”
Though strep zoo is treatable if caught early, it is highly infectious.
“What Two Pups did was to purchase a drug, a long-acting antibiotic, that we were able to administer one time that treated every animal in the facility,” Martin said.
Though the animal control facility ended up closing for 10 days and losing four dogs to the outbreak, Martin said that with the help of Two Pups, it avoided a much more dire scenario.
Silver said her grand vision is for Two Pups to someday open a free clinic to provide access to medical care for animals regardless of their owners’ financial means. In the meantime, Two Pups will continue to grow and help animals, whether it’s one pup, two pups or even 300. JN