It’s been about four years since North Las Vegas resident Nikki Dawson suddenly lost her husband of a quarter-century to a heart attack. He was 50.
“I struggled,” Dawson said. “I have very little income and, at one point, I was donating plasma to pay for gas, my car insurance and food for my (six) pets. I donated about two times a week for two years. I had a medical condition later that stopped me from doing it.”
Dawson makes about $650 each month, she said. A neighbor told Dawson of a Las Vegas-based organization, Urban Underdogs, that helps pets in underserved communities. She contacted founder Cynthia Miyamoto and set up home delivery to receive food for her dogs, cat and bird.
“I’ve always believed that pets are family, and they deserve one home, just like kids,” Dawson said. “For a lot of people including myself who fall on hard times and aren’t able to give them what they need, we need services like Urban Underdogs. They’re really providing a good service out there so people can take care of their pets.”
The organization provides free pet food assistance and cover some costs for basic vet services, Miyamoto said. It additionally has a home delivery service for individuals who qualify based on financial need.
Miyamoto founded Urban Underdogs in 2016, shortly after she and her husband moved from Colorado to Las Vegas. They noticed several homeless people, many of them with pets, she said.
“It’s a privilege to own an animal,” Miyamoto said. “We believe we’re providing a small contribution but a very much-needed one. We need to do our part for these animals in need. Every Monday we work with the City of Las Vegas and the Corridor of Hope to provide pet food to the people who need it. We get leads from HELP of Southern Nevada, mental health facilities, homeless direct others who are homeless to us. We’re trying to get in as many as we can.”
Last year, Urban Underdogs helped over 750 animals, Miyamoto said.
“We don’t foster or help place any animals; we just try to keep the pets with their owners,” Miyamoto said. “We have three programs: pet food assistance, a home delivery service and spay and neuter. We take care of vet fees. Pet owners only have to get themselves to the appointment.”
“There’s a lot of people who just have bad situations, and they have these animals they want to do right by but can’t because they can’t afford to. We help them.”
How to get help
Visit urbanunderdogs.org/getinvolved or contact Cynthia Miyamoto at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an interview.