Helping Practices Help Pet Owners Afford Care
The Veterinary Care Charitable Fund supplies AVMA members with funds to provide charitable care in cases of financial need, neglect, or abuse.
One of the biggest concerns in the profession today is the lack of access to veterinary care for low-income clients. Staff at most veterinary clinics have been faced with a situation in which a client elected euthanasia for their pet simply because the client could not afford the recommended treatment.
“Access to veterinary care, or more specifically the lack of access, is the largest animal welfare issue confronting owned pets—dogs and cats primarily,” Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH, director of the Program for Pet Health Equity at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work, recently told Veterinarian’s Money Digest.
Among the 46% of respondents in an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals study who said they gave up a pet because of a pet-related issue, 26% said they could not afford medical care for their pet's health problems. And when pet owners with incomes lower than $50,000 were asked which service might have helped them the most, 40% indicated free or low-cost veterinary care.
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Thankfully, there are organizations dedicated to alleviating the financial burden some pet owners face. Among them is the Veterinary Care Charitable Fund (VCCF) launched by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) 3 years ago. The VCCF helps American Veterinary Medical Association member veterinarians provide charitable care for disabled veterans requiring a service dog, low-income senior citizens, Good Samaritans who rescue companion animals, and victims of domestic violence.
To date, The VCCF has enrolled 1171 veterinary practices in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, and $378,837 has been reimbursed in total. This has helped save 1234 animals, according to AVMF data.
Among the VCCF’s growing list of success cases is a dog named Jessica and her feline sibling, Oke, who were trapped in a house fire. Through their pet owner's quick action, and the help of the New Orleans Fire Department, the animals were rushed to a nearby veterinary hospital where the staff treated both pets for smoke inhalation. Over the course of 2 months, the practice was able to provide veterinary care to Jessica and Oke because treatment expenses were paid through the VCCF.
Lisa Miracle, administrator of a Massachusetts animal hospital, told the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association that her 9-doctor practice enrolled in the VCCF because staff members wanted to avoid having to tell clients they could help a patient only if the owner could afford to pay; otherwise, they would have to euthanize the animal. “We're lucky. We're in an affluent area, so we're not having that conversation all the time, but we're in a position now where we have the opportunity to help people afford care that they otherwise could not,” Miracle said.
Since enrolling in the VCCF, her hospital has not had another economic euthanasia case. “It's amazing. It's like you're giving them a life preserver,” Miracle said.