Because Nobody Should Have to Choose Between Feeding Themselves or Their Pet

By Giving List Staff   |   October 5, 2021

Sandra beat breast cancer several years ago, yet continues to struggle with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Luckily, to help her through the rough patches, she has Nala, a black and white terrier mix who is always available for cuddling.

But as Nala aged, she developed health issues. Financially struggling, Sandra needed assistance taking care of Nala, so she turned to Pets Are Wonderful Support, or PAWS, for help. 

PAWS is one of several programs offered by Shanti Project, a San Francisco nonprofit aimed at helping low-income people struggling with illness or disability overcome barriers to care. Its fundamental mission is to reduce isolation, enhance health and well-being, and improve quality of life through ongoing compassionate care. 

Sandra is a client in Shanti’s Women’s Cancer Program, and when her care navigator heard of Nala’s age-related mobility issues, she referred her to PAWS, which was founded in 1987 and merged with Shanti Project in 2015.

Sandra is one of the thousands of San Franciscans who currently benefit from the unconditional love of their companion animals, but financially struggle to support them.

Through PAWS, people can access its pet food and supply bank, get help with veterinary care and medications, and connect to a network of volunteer dog walkers, among other services.  

Sandra was able to get Nala pet food, flea and tick medicine, nail trimmings, and supplements for her joints. 

“For PAWS clients, their companion animal is often their only family, and the fact that many of these clients cannot keep their pets without PAWS highlights how invaluable this program is to San Francisco,” says Kaushik Roy, Executive Director at Shanti Project. “Anything you have ever done to help your pets, we do for our clients. This includes providing free pet food and cat litter, utilizing complimentary or discounted veterinarian care, and offering emergency foster care.”

Currently, PAWS serves over 600 clients and approximately 800 companion animals; however, as San Francisco’s onlyprogram dedicated to keeping pets together with their marginalized humans, the demand for PAWS’s services is simply overwhelming. Since the merger, Shanti has worked diligently to enroll as many clients off the PAWS waitlist as possible, but hundreds are still waiting. 

Shanti’s other life-changing programs include support for women with cancer and people with HIV. The programs are free and available to people who fall below the poverty line and face many systemic barriers. Often clients, like Sandra, cross over among programs. 

Sandra is one of the thousands that PAWS has helped. In an interview, another PAWS client shared her story, reinforcing the importance of Shanti’s work.

“This client had originally been experiencing homelessness when she came to PAWS,” Roy recalls. “She said PAWS saved her life and saved the lives of her dog and kitty.”


Shanti Project

Donate now!
(415) 625-5220
Chief Development Officer: Charlie Meade


Shanti exists to enhance the health, quality of life and well-being of people with terminal, life-threatening or disabling illnesses or conditions. Through a continuum of services, including in-home and onsite patient and care navigation, emotional and practical support and preserving the human-animal bond, Shanti strives to achieve the highest medical and quality of life outcomes for San Francisco’s most vulnerable.

Begin to Build a Relationship

We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s Director of Development and/or Executive Director.

When I think of compassionate care in San Francisco, I think of Shanti. I am truly honored to support Shanti and PAWS in all of their critical work to support our fellow San Franciscans dealing with isolation, illness, and poverty. Few other nonprofits in our city capture the spirit of community as Shanti does, and I hope you will join me in partnering with them to improve the lives of our neighbors in need.
Dede Wilsey
San Francisco Philanthropist and Community Leader

These Four-Legged Friends Need Your Unconditional Support

Shanti hopes to raise $2.5 million this fiscal year for its free programs that support people who are financially struggling while living with illness and disability, including cancer and HIV. With additional funding, Shanti aims to enroll at least 100 more clients from the PAWS waitlist.

Key Supporters

Barbara Bass Bakar
Crankstart Foundation
Dr. Charles A. Garfield and Cindy Spring
Stanlee Gatti
Gilead Sciences
Marcia and John Goldman
Graham Family Foundation
Margaret Hearst and William Hearst III
The Honorable James C. Hormel
and Michael P. Nguyen
Tom Horn and The Bob Ross Foundation
Susan Janin
Micki Klearman
Metta Fund
Carl and Yurie Pascarella
Janet and Clinton Reilly
Emily Scott
John Sell
Amy Tan and Louis DeMattei
To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation
Dede Wilsey