Alley Cat Allies recently sent out this article for pet owners troubled by lean times:
Are you facing tough financial times and struggling to make ends meet for your entire family—including your pets and feral cat colony? Alley Cat Allies has ideas on how to make providing care more affordable, including resources for obtaining food and for helping you cover emergency veterinary costs.
There are multiple avenues to find support to help you obtain affordable or free food and shelter for the cats.
Resources for Obtaining Cat Food
- Check for surplus food at your local humane society, or human food bank, or local food pantries. Feeding America has an online food bank locator at www.feedingamerica.org.
- Ask your local market or pet supply store to donate broken packages or dented cans. Some retailers will also donate out-of-date products, which are still good for a few months longer than the sell-by date.
- Ask local vet clinics if they have surplus or just-out-of-date premium pet foods that they are willing to donate.
- Hold a cat food drive. Announce the drive in the local paper to collect donations from the public. Your workplace, local religious institutions, and civic or youth groups may be willing to help as well. Sometimes youth groups, clubs, and high schools require community projects that benefit both people and animals.
- Work with your local scout troop or volunteer organization on the drive for feral cat caregivers. Ask local markets and pet supply shops if you may put out an attractive bin requesting cat food donations.
Resources for Obtaining Shelters/Cat Houses for Feral Cats
- Ask for scrap lumber from building supply stores or contractors, often available at little or no cost.
- Place an ad asking for used dog houses. This could net several free shelters that, with minor improvements, can be made suitable for cats (usually insulation needs to be added and the door made smaller).
- Host a shelter building party. Get together with other caregivers and/or your local feral cat organization’s supporters to build the houses together. Contact a local Boy or Girl Scout or other youth organization and ask interested youth to complete a service project to help build shelters.
- Alley Cat Allies’ website shows several inexpensive shelters you can make yourself, available at www.alleycat.org/BuildAShelter (click on the second bullet).
- Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Network is a group of organizations or individuals with feral cat expertise and veterinary practices and clinics that provide neuter surgeries for feral cats located in communities nationwide. Go to www.alleycat.org/response to locate a Feral Friend near you who may offer low-cost or subsidized spay/neuter surgery for feral cats.
Emergency veterinary care can be costly. These national organizations provide funds to those in need.
- AAHA Helping Pets Fun – This fund helps those in need access quality veterinary care for sick or injured pets. Grants temporarily suspended but will begin again in July 2009.
- Angels4Animals – Friends or veterinarians use the “contact us” page to refer an animal family in need of financial assistance.
- CareCredit – Offers a revolving line of credit for veterinary expenses.
- Cats in Crisis – Helps individuals and humane organizations care for cats with chronic or emergency medical conditions through financial and fundraising assistance. Grants temporarily suspended, but check often for re-up date.
- Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance Program – This program provides financial assistance to cat and kitten guardians who are unable to afford veterinary services to save their companions when life-threatening illness or injury strikes.
- Good Sam Fund — Good SAM (Special Assistance and Memorial Fund) was established to create financial aid for sick or injured animals who either are stray or client-owned animals in special circumstances. The fund is supported entirely by outside donations and your pet must meet one part of their criteria to be considered for financial assistance.
- Help-A-Pet – Help-A-Pet provides financial assistance nationwide for the medical care of pets whose owners are unable to afford the expense; for individuals with income below $20,000 or a family income below $40,000.
- IMOM – Financial assistance for life-threatening and emergency veterinary care. IMOM is dedicated to ensuring that no companion animal has to be euthanized simply because their caretaker is financially challenged.
- The Pet Fund – Provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals who need urgent veterinary care.
- Rhode Island – RIVMA Companion Animal Foundation – Launched in 2004, the Foundation’s mission is to provide funds to the state’s participating veterinary practitioners for compassionate care of pets whose owners are unable to pay.
- United Animal Nations – LifeLine grants help Good Samaritans, animal rescuers and low-income families with the high cost of caring for pets by providing grants to meet emergency veterinary expenses they otherwise couldn’t afford.
Locale Specific Veterinary Care
Many local shelters, humane societies, clinics, and pet organizations have special emergency funds to use for families who need special assistance within their communities. Here are a handful, some of which also provide additional help for ongoing animal care:
- Atlanta – Pets Are Loving Support – P.A.L.S. provides pet-care, including free food and basic veterinary care, and support to the companion pets of critically ill and disabled Atlantans.
- Central Ohio – Pet Promise – Provides financial assistance to low-income pet owners who can’t afford medical care for their pets. Also sponsors Operation Fill-A-Bowl, providing free of charge, cat and dog food to pet owners who need assistance and to the caretakers of feral cat populations. Their City Kitty program provides vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries for feral cats.
- Connecticut – Connecticut Humane Society – The Connecticut Humane Society’s Fox Memorial Clinic is a full-service veterinary practice that provides veterinary care for animals whose owners are in financial need.
- New York – NY Save – Aid and assistance for low-income pet owners residing in one of the five boroughs of New York City, whose pet is in need of emergency veterinary care.
- Northern Nevada/Lake Tahoe – Shakespeare Animal Fund – People in the Northern Nevada/Lake Tahoe area can apply for funds, with an emphasis on those on fixed incomes or with annual incomes below $35,000.
- Salt Lake City – Pet Samaritan Fund – Provides financial assistance to Utah pet owners who cannot afford medical care for their pets due to extreme financial hardship (up to $100 upon receipt of veterinary billing statement).
- San Francisco – Pets Are Wonderful Support – Provides for the comprehensive needs of companion animals for low-income persons with HIV/AIDS and other disabling illnesses, as well as senior citizens in the San Francisco area.
- Washington, DC – Pets DC – Dedicated to improving the health and well being of people living with HIV/AIDS or other disabling conditions and their companion pets by providing public health education, exercise, pet food, veterinary care, grooming, foster care, and adoptions services at no cost to individuals in the Metropolitan Washington area.
OTHER IDEAS FOR GETTING HELP
- Work with your veterinarian. Some veterinarians may be willing to work out a payment plan with you, especially if you can provide some of the payment up front.
- Contact friends and family and fundraise. It’s not easy asking for help. But when your animal’s life hangs in the balance, it may be the best option to borrow money or hold a fundraiser.
- Plan ahead. Cut costs and start a savings plan. Consider getting pet owner’s insurance to cover veterinary costs now to prepare for any tough times you may have ahead.
- Get in touch with breed-specific groups. If your pet is a specific breed, the groups associated with it often have funds available to help provide the care your animal needs.
The news is full of stories of animals losing their homes along with their pet parents due to home foreclosure. Some tips for dealing with this looming threat:
- Educate yourself about ways to prevent foreclosure all together. The best way to keep your whole family together (pets and all) is to stay in your home. At makinghomeaffordable.gov/, you can see if you are eligible for government-sponsored foreclosure alternatives, such as refinancing or loan modifications.
- No Paws Left Behind is a nonprofit that provides tips for homeowners as well as an online network to get your pet into the safest place possible if needed.
- Search for pet-friendly housing. Almost every local humane society or rescue group keeps a list of pet-friendly housing in the area. Some also offer mediation services to help you convince a potential landlord to allow the animal to come with you if it is not normally acceptable. To prepare for these discussions, gather proof of your responsibility toward your pet, including veterinary care and statements from others agreeing to your conscientiousness.
- Work hard to find your animal the best temporary home possible. Talk with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Ask your veterinarian about temporary boarding. Whatever you do, do not take your animal to an open-admission shelter, because they will likely be killed.
Other links that may help:
Financial Assistance for Pets | Troubled Times for Pets and People | Help with Vet Bills | Pet food pantries, financial aid for pets, and pet assistance