PetPalooza returns with pet care resources for KCDC residents

By Ken Leinart

Lisa Fine is worried about her cat.

She describes her feline companion to one of the volunteers working with one of the partners at Knoxville Community Development Corporation’s (KCDC) PetPalooza Tuesday, June 18, at Cagle Terrace Apartments in Knoxville.

Fine is told about several brands of food that may be beneficial for her cat, then is offered the cat food.

For free.

“Which one?” Fine asked.

“Oh, we’re giving you all of them so you can see what she likes,” volunteer Amy Buttry answered.

There are a lot of things that can make people smile. Pets bring smiles – cats, dogs, even goldfish and turtles.

Being able to take care of the pet who makes you smile, well … Words can’t describe it.

The smile becomes a beacon, a flash of light and happiness, a look of astonishment and relief.

That’s the look on Lisa Fine’s face.

And that’s only a small part of what PetPalooza is about.

It started with Abby Moazen, a soft-spoken middle schooler and Girl Scout who seemingly can “sense” moods and read what touches people’s hearts.

“She was volunteering at an elderly property when she noticed something,” her mother, Marisa, said.

Abby Moazen picked up the connection of the residents and their pets.

“She spent the next year getting donations, getting people to come on board,” her mother said.

The first PetPalooza was held at Love Towers in Historic Old North Knoxville last year.

Two things happened: The response from the residents of Love Towers was tremendous, and the response from those who helped – the partners – was even better.

“Low-income elderly people might not have enough money to fund for their pet’s needs,” Abby Moazen said. “We just want to get the pet the life they need regardless of their situation.”

The first PetPalooza was so popular and helpful at Love Towers that Abby organized a second event for Cagle Terrace.

Catherine Howell of MoxCar Marketing and Communications, another partner in the PetPalooza event, said research has shown the importance and effectiveness of pet ownership.

“People with pets are a lot more active,” she said. “They are not as lonely and they are healthier.”

Helping feed the pets is just a very small part of PetPalooza.

Marisa Moazen said KCDC surveyed residents and asked about their pets, particularly: “Have you ever run out of food for your pet and needed emergency assistance for your pet and not have money to pay?” and “Do you have transportation?”

Sadly the first was answered with a lot of “yes,” and the second was answered with a lot of “No.”

Marisa noted that only about 30% of the residents at KCDC properties have private transportation.

Love Towers had the highest age of residents fitting that category, therefore the first PetPalooza was held there.

Cagle Terrace had the second-highest.

“You compound all those things together and that’s the reason to hold something on site,” Marisa said.

Again, it’s not just pet food resources.

PetPalooza provided residents with resources to encourage proper pet care and ownership, including food, ID tags, toys, and other essential items

“It’s not just ‘needs’ today,” Christina Sablinski said.

“The assessment gives our partners an idea of what the needs are,” she said.

Pet owners can follow those assessments for the benefit of their pets.

Both events drew at least 200 people, Abby Moazen said, though a lot didn’t bring pets. Between 80-90 pets were seen at each event, meaning about a pet a minute during the 90-minute schedule.

Abby, who said she worked mostly with the pet photos during Tuesday’s event, said PetPalooza has been very gratifying because it comes from the heart and it seems to strike at the heart of the residents and their pets.

“They (the residents) are really happy,” she said.

Pointing out the pet photos she noted, “They (the residents) love seeing their pet in the photos. For most it’s the only photo they have done professionally.”

It started as a project for her Girl Scouts Bronze Award for Abby, but it has grown into something bigger, more personal.

Making people smile will do that to you.

Now it’s not just a Girl Scouts project.

“We’ll do this as long as we can,” she said, dismissing the thought she would stop taking part once she got out of Girl Scouts. “There are a ton more buildings and there are a ton more pets.

“We’re not done yet,” she said.

KCDC is the public housing authority for Knoxville and Knox County and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a high-performing public housing authority. The organization manages and rents more than 3,700 units across more than 20 properties.

Community partners for PetPalooza include Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians Troop 22040, University of Tennessee Center for Veterinary Social Work, Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC), Young Williams Animal Center, Companion Animal Initiative of Tennessee (CAIT) and Pet Resorts.