When we adopted Rocket Boy, he was five weeks old and had already had one emergency trip to the vet. Little did we know that we’d be in emergency rooms with him four more times over the course of our first year together. Every pet owner, at one time or another, is faced with an unexpected veterinary bill. The Humane Society of the United States recommends that in addition to preparing for routine pet-care costs, you regularly set aside savings to cover for unexpected veterinary bills. Create a special “pet savings account” and try to sock away money on a regular basis.
Good luck with that. In our tanked-out economy, it’s becoming harder for pet owners to come up with the money they need to save their best friend’s life. So what’s a person to do?
Here are some suggestions:
- Ask your veterinarian if he or she will let you work out a payment plan. Many veterinarians are willing to work out a weekly or monthly payment plan so that you do not have to pay the entire cost of veterinary care up front.
- Contact your local shelter. Some shelters operate or know of local subsidized veterinary clinics or veterinary assistance programs. You can find the name and number of your local shelter in the Yellow Pages of your phone book under “animal shelter,” “animal control,” or “humane society,” or by calling Information. You can also go to www.Pets911.com and enter your zip code to find a list of animal shelters, animal control agencies, and other animal care organizations in your community.
- If you have a specific breed of dog, contact the National Club for that breed. In some cases, these clubs offer a veterinary financial assistance fund. (The American Kennel Club (AKC), www.akc.org, has a list of the national dog clubs)
- Ask your veterinarian to submit an assistance request to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) “Helping Pets Fund.” In order to qualify, your animal hospital must be AAHA accredited. To learn more about the program visit the AAHA website. To find a AAHA accredited hospital in your area, search online at www.Pets911.com.
- Use your credit card. Ask for a higher credit limit or a cash advance.
- Call your bank. Ask about loan programs, second mortgages, or other options. Consider borrowing from your life insurance policy, vacation savings, kids’ education fund, or retirement program.
- Alert family and friends and ask them each for a $25 loan.
- Pawn your stuff. TVs and VCRs can be replaced. Your pet can’t.
- Consider taking on a part-time job or temping.
- Contact the regional office of The HSUS that covers your state. Their regional office staff is often familiar with organizations and personnel within their territory and may be able to direct you to programs in your area.
- If you purchased your dog from a reputable breeder, check your contract to see if there is a health guarantee that covers your pet’s ailment.
- Check with veterinary schools in your state to see if they offer discount services to the public. You can find a list of veterinary schools in the Education section of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) web site, www.avma.org. You may also contact them at: 1931 North Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173, 847-925-8070.
- Contact Care Credit. They offer credit plans for medical services. Care Credit can be contacted at: P.O. Box 1710, Costa Mesa, CA 92628-1710, 800-859-9975, www.carecredit.com.
If all else fails, look for help from the following organizations. Please note that each one has its own specific requirements.
- IMOM, INC., PO Box 181, Pennsville, NJ 08070, www.IMOM.org (life threatening emergencies only, and assistance for rescue pets of 501s.)
- Help-A-Pet, www.help-a-pet.org, PO Box 244, Hinsdale, Illinois 60521, 630-986-9504 (Annual income below $20,000 for an individual or $40,000 for family household – amount varies upon the number of dependents)
- The Pet Fund, www.thepetfund.com, 1510 19th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, 916-443-6007 (non-basic, non-emergency care)
- AAHA Helping Pets Fund, www.aahahelpingpets.org, (866) 443-5738 (AAHA-accredited practices only.) (Proof of financial hardship)
- The MedVet Charitable Foundation, 300 East Wilson Bridge Rd, Worthington, OH 43085, Toll Free: (800) 891-9010, (Good Sam Fund provides financial aid for sick or injured animals who are either stray or client-owned animals in special circumstances.)
- United Animal Nations PO Box 188890 Sacramento, CA 95818 Phone: (916) 429-2457. (Offers LifeLine Grants to aid companion animals in times of life-threatening emergencies when their caregivers, with low or no incomes, are unable to afford the entire cost of treatment.)
- Angels for Animals, 3941 Park Dr Ste 20-135, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762, Phone: 916-941-9119, Fax: 916-290-0598, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org,
- The Magic Bullet Fund, PO Box 2574, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510, (Magic Bullet Fund helps pets with cancer, when their owners cannot afford the cost of treatment.)
- Canine Cancer Awareness, PO Box 2011, Skowhegan, ME 04976, CCancerAwareness@aol.com (Helping pets with cancer, when their owners cannot afford the cost of treatment.)
- Cody’s Club, 135 Nottingham Road, Columbus, OH 43214, email@example.com. (Financial support for individuals on a limited income whose pet faces radiation treatments.)
- Special Needs Dobermans, P.O. Box 2496, Goldenrod, Florida 32733-2496, 505 334-0586, firstname.lastname@example.org, (financial assistance for Dobermans with extraordinary medical expenses.
Remember; a little preventive care can go a long way. Have your pet spayed or neutered, stay up to date on vaccinations, and keep your pet in a safe environment. If you have trouble affording the cost to spay or neuter your pet, contact your local animal shelter. They may operate a clinic or know of a local clinic that offers subsidized services.