School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Red Paw Emergency Relief Team Needs Our Help Because Pets Are Family Too!

Philadelphia Firefighter Jen Leary is the founder of Red Paw Emergency Relief Team and a CNN Hero.  The tagline of Red Paw describes the foundation of their mission, ‘Assisting Displaced Pets and their People.’ Jen and her small team of firefighters respond 24/7 to fires and emergencies where pets are saved along with their family members. Over the past 10 years, Jen reports saving more than 7,000 pets for approximately 3,500 families. Imagine the relief of families, having lost their homes and all possessions, to be reunited with their beloved pets. This is the essence of Red Paw’s work, a Red Cross response for pets. 

After 10 years of service to the community, and many failed requests to integrate the model of Red Paw into the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Emergency Response Program, Jen has had to make the heartbreaking announcement that Red Paw will cease operating on October 1, 2020. It is not without trying, and this is the last-ditch effort to ask the Department and the City to finally do what is right. Red Paw is the only model of its kind across the country. It can be scaled but has to be part of an emergency response system, it is not sustainable any other way. 

Jen and her twin sister, Marion Leary, shared this podcast as a way to garner public awareness and support of Red Paw.

This is how we can help! Sign and share a petition to ask the Philadelphia Fire Department to integrate Red Paw into the emergency management system:

Tell the City Red Paw’s Services are Important to its Residents


At the end of July we informed the Philadelphia Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management that we would be discontinuing our services effective October 1st, 2020. This has essentially been a 10-year pilot program, and throughout the course of those years, we’ve adjusted our model and have learned a lot. A decade of experience has enabled us to become the experts on how these vital services can best be sustained and replicated in other cities. If the first six months of 2020 have taught us anything, it is that our current stand-alone response model of a nonprofit organization is neither replicable nor sustainable.

Unfortunately, this decision is not a money thing. It’s a model thing. After ten years of championing and implementing these services, we are certain that our current model is neither replicable or sustainable. The 24/7/365 emergency services that we are providing cannot survive on an island as a stand-alone organization.

We’ve consistently met with the city over the last five years to tell them that and to try to provide options for integration so that the vital services we provide to the residents of the city can live on forever and could be a successful model for other cities. It has to be a change in thinking from the top down and buy-in.

Which leads us to what you can do to help; Let the city know that pets are family too and that these services are important to the residents of Philadelphia!

We know that the services Red Paw provides to the residents of this city are needed. We know the services we provide are effective and invaluable. We have the numbers to prove it. In the last nine years, we’ve assisted over 3,750 families and nearly 7,200 pets affected by residential fires and disasters. And national statistics concur, 67% of have at least two pets. 92% of pet owners consider pets family. And, Americans spend 70 billion dollars a year on their pets.

We have provided this info along with a plan for integration of services to the City, should they decide in the future to do so and we would be eager to work with them to develop a model that would transition our services to the PFD in a financially feasible way so that the residents of Philadelphia & our partners who deserve our services would still get the proven assistance they desperately need on-scene.

Pets are family. During a disaster it’s not either-or – it’s not either people or pets, its people and pets! We know this now more than ever when during the events of the last 6 months some have had only their pets to keep them grounded in an uncertain world. We love this city and its residents and have been extremely proud to have been able to provide a little bit of relief to so many of our neighbors on their worst days.


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