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Can’t afford critical veterinary care? Many nonprofits can help!

In the summer of 2014, Hannah Burke found herself in a situation no pet owner ever wants to face. Her dog, Sadie, a 1-year-old cocker spaniel/golden retriever mix, needed surgery on her tail after a bite wound had become badly infected. Sadie was an autism assistance dog for Burke’s son and had been a great comfort while Burke’s husband was deployed overseas with the U.S. Navy.

But a death in the family had left the Burkes struggling financially. It was a horrible time to learn Sadie needed a life-saving surgery they couldn’t afford.

“They brought me the estimate and my heart just broke,” Burke says. “I was like, ‘I’m going to have to put her to sleep or take her to the pound.’ I still get teary-eyed talking about it.”

Fortunately, the veterinary team told her not to worry and handed her paperwork for a grant from the FACE Foundation, a nonprofit in San Diego, California, that provides financial assistance to local animal owners who can’t afford their pets’ emergency or critical veterinary care.

The surgery was a success, and Sadie continues to be a beloved member of the family.

“I can’t imagine our life without Sadie,” Burke says. “She’s my daughter, not a dog.”

Resources for pet owners

There are many national and state-specific nonprofits throughout the U.S. that help care for pets in need. If your dog or cat needs veterinary care you can’t afford, don’t despair!

On the national level, the Dog and Cat Cancer Fund provides grants for pet cancer treatment.

RedRover offers financial assistance to families who need emergency veterinary care for their pets, as well as grants to help victims of domestic violence escape safely with their pets through temporary boarding and veterinary care.

The Mosby Foundation awards grants to help pay for veterinary care for critically sick and injured pets.

Best Friends, a nonprofit with the goal of “no more homeless pets,” maintains a comprehensive list of organizations offering financial aid for pets.

The Humane Society of the United States also has a terrific resource list for people having trouble affording their pets’ care.

Sadie is one of more than 1,300 animals saved from “economic euthanasia” by the FACE Foundation and its veterinary partners since 2006.

“Losing a pet because of a financial hardship is really something no pet owner should have to do,” says Brooke Haggerty, executive director of FACE. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘All I’ve had to eat today is a spoonful of peanut butter because I’m trying to save up money for this surgery for my pet.’ It’s just really devastating.”

Though FACE can only provide financial assistance to residents of San Diego, Haggerty said the organization maintains a list of national and regional resources for people who could use help getting a lifesaving treatment for their pet. She even said her team is happy to talk on the phone to people from outside San Diego to discuss ways to save their pets.

“We try our best to walk people through it. It’s why we’re here,” Haggerty says. “And if there are people interested in starting an organization like ours, call us. We want to do what we can.”

Haggerty said another effective way to raise money for a pet’s surgery is crowdfunding. Pet owners can create personal fundraising pages on sites like GoFundMe or YouCaring, then share the page on social media and email the link to friends, family, and local organizations that might be willing to donate or help spread the word.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand. That’s what friends and family are for,” Haggerty says. “It’s just the matter of taking the initiative. Social networks are really the fastest way to come up with money without other organizations helping you.”

She also recommends all pet owners consider insurance—prior to pre-existing conditions—in case of future emergencies.

“I’m very much an advocate of pet insurance because when you’re faced with a $6,000 bill, those monthly payments of $25-$30 are going to seem a lot more doable than that $6,000 estimate for a fracture repair or whatever your pet is going to need,” Haggerty said. “If everyone had pet insurance, we wouldn’t need organizations like FACE.”

Award-winning pet writer Jen Reeder hopes all pets can live long, happy lives with the families that love them. 

Photo courtesy of the FACE Foundation

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