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February 19, 2013 > Ohlone Humane Society: With the kindness of strangers

Ohlone Humane Society: With the kindness of strangers

By Nancy Lyon

A member of your family is suffering from a lingering illness or has been seriously injured and needs emergency help. If that member happens to be your beloved animal companion and you're short on cash and your credit cards are maxed out, what can you do? Is there any help available?

The answer is often yes... but you can spend precious time finding it. You may have always been able to provide for the cost of veterinary expenses but circumstances may now force you to hesitate when they become beyond your ability to pay the bill. If you find yourself in these circumstances and have an ailing animal friend, the following information may help.

If you truly can't afford an emergency vet bill, there are organizations that offer financial help to low-income seniors, the homeless, ill or those on assistance so that their companion need not suffer. The ability to help varies with the organization; some are held to a limited amount or location, while others are more far-reaching and it's not unusual for groups to pool resources.

In one recent case out of many, a little terrier of a senior disabled lady with very limited means was suffering greatly from a large kidney stone that had to be surgically removed. The generous vet had kept the costs down as much as possible but it would still fall in the $1,500 range - more than the lady or the average non-profit could carry alone. OHS partnered with BrightHaven Sanctuary in Sebastopol and a compassionate staff member of the vet office reached out to Good Samaritans, the resulting happy ending is the little dog will soon be pain free and safely home.

Each plea for help is unique, and non-profit organizations like OHS try to help within the limits of their financial ability. If there is a prognosis for a good quality of life if care is given, but available finances do not permit it, than we look for options... no animal deserves to needlessly lose their life or live in continuous pain. No one should have to choose between medical care and euthanizing a much loved companion animal.

We can't promise miracles but in many cases we can offer assistance in a difficult time. As a volunteer based organization, our funds are limited but we do our best because we are aware how much the animal deserves the best help we can offer and is cherished by their family. When veterinary costs exceed the limits we are able to offer, other resources are available to help complement or cover the cost of an emergency.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) offers the following advice:

Negotiate a payment plan with your vet. If you're a client in good standing, she may be happy to work out a weekly or monthly payment plan so that you don't have to pay the entire cost of veterinary care up front. However, don't expect a vet you've never been to before to agree to such a plan; she doesn't know you and understandably doesn't want to get stuck with an unpaid bill.

Apply through your vet for temporary credit (to qualifying individuals) through CareCredit, a credit card that's specifically for health expenses, including your companion animal It offers no interest or low interest plans with fixed monthly payments that allow you to budget your money.

Raise your own funds! GiveForward enables you to create a personal fundraising page to raise funds for companion animal medical care. They charge a small percentage of funds raised.

Apply to national organizations that provide financial assistance for companion animals in need.

HSUS advises you to keep in mind that each organization is independent and has their own set of rules and guidelines. Therefore you will have to investigate each one separately to determine if you qualify for assistance:

The Big Hearts Fund (financial assistance for the diagnosis and treatment of canine and feline heart disease):
The Binky Foundation:
Brown Dog Foundation (prescription medications):
Canine Cancer Awareness:
Cats In Crisis:
God's Creatures Ministry Veterinary Charity:
Magic Bullet Fund (cancer-specific):
The Mosby
The Onyx & Breezy Foundation:
Paws 4 A Cure:
The Pet Fund:
Pets of the Homeless (pet food and veterinary care assistance for homeless):
RedRover Relief:
Rose's Fund:
Shakespeare Animal Fund:
Top Dog Foundation "Bentley Grant":

In a true emergency situation, check with your veterinarian or local animal shelter for references to programs that may work with you to offer help quickly. A note of advice, if your animal friend is showing signs of serious illness or injury - do not wait until the weekend when veterinary care may not be available.

The HSUS website lists local contact information for veterinary assistance by state:
Ohlone Humane Society is a volunteer-based California nonprofit and receives no funding from city, state, federal or other humane organizations. We depend entirely on community support and donations to fund our many service programs. All donations are appreciated.

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