Twenty-seven adorable fur faces trotted into a parking lot in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood for some check-ups on Wednesday, and everybody left a little bit healthier – even just in spirit.

The Maryland SPCA had come to the Assisi House, where the Esperanza Center had operated since fire damaged its Broadway location, to give some four-legged friends in immigrant households a little TLC – comprehensive exams, vaccinations, medications, advice on flea prevention, nail trimming, food, toys, and more.

Learning what a puppy needs

“It’s challenging to find a veterinarian that speaks Spanish,” said Maryland SPCA’s chief of shelter medicine Dr. Ana Hudgson. “We really believe in order to serve our community we need to address our lacking veterinarian services. We want to keep animals out of shelters but people face multiple challenges including, not being able to afford proper care, language barriers, or lack of transportation, so we want to get out in those communities and help those populations.”

The Maryland SPCA’s PAW Plus program keeps families together by holding free veterinary clinics in under-resourced communities.

Roberto Zavala, who visited the outdoor clinic with his 2-month-old puppy, said, “I didn’t know where else to go with my new dog. This is a big help for me because I need to learn more about how to care for him. I’m so happy this is being offered and it’s helpful that it’s free.”

“We want to be intentional by targeting the underserved and under-resourced,” said Maryland SPCA Community Relations Director Katie Flory. “We know there are many veterinary deserts so we want to help individuals living in those communities as much as possible.”

Gentle care for this 2-month-old

The clinic provides a much-needed service to our immigrant neighbors.

“The pandemic hit our immigrant community disproportionately, leaving many of our families to choose between buying food and medicine for their families or providing medical treatment for their beloved pets,” said Esperanza Center Outreach and Operations Manager Giuliana Valencia-Banks. “This is what makes Esperanza Center and Catholic Charities so amazing, because we are able to connect with various service providers and connect our families to the resources they need.”