NKPC’s “Support, Options and Solutions (S.O.S.) for keeping pets out of shelters” helps pet owners and community cat caretakers keep their pets/cats safe, healthy and out of the shelters. S.O.S. includes information, referral and resources to address the reasons pets enter our shelters or suffer on the streets when they could have stayed with and received help from a family/caregiver who loved them.
Recent research* shows many pet owners/caregivers have difficulty accessing the veterinary care they need and our own experience/data from running the Help Desk at PACC for 3 years showed many surrenders would not be necessary if help was offered for common medical or behavioral challenges.
The Access to Veterinary Care Coalition (AVCC) conducted a national population study (2018) and found “In the past two years, one out of four (27.9%) households experienced barriers to veterinary care…The overwhelming barrier for all groups of pet owners and types of care (preventive, sick and emergency) is financial.” Additionally, the study estimated over “29 million dogs and cats live with low income families participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.“ AVCC cites additional studies which show more than three-fourths of American families working full time live paycheck to paycheck (2017) and in their own data showed with regard to getting vet care for a sick pet, “the middle-income group was as likely to cite inability to afford the care as a barrier as the lowest income category: 79.9% compared to 77%”. When it came to emergency care, in addition to financial barriers, more families cited no way to get to a facility and not knowing where to go than in the case of preventative or sick care.
Responsible owners may choose to bring their pets to the shelter because they want their pet to get the care they need and they cannot afford it; or, in many cases they assume they wont be able to afford it and have not sought a diagnosis. Ands some responsible owners who bring their pet to the vet discover they indeed cannot afford the recommended diagnostics and/or treatment. People also bring their pets to the shelter or the vet for euthanasia because they can’t afford, or they think they couldn’t afford, the necessary diagnostics/treatment. As noted above and experienced by many of you, veterinary costs for a sick/injured pet are a challenge for the average person.
In 2018 over 500 people brought their pets to PACC for medical reasons. Another 364 because their pets were “old.” Almost 200 more cited ‘cost’ as the reason, and how many of those could have been addressed as a short term and resolvable situation? One veterinary clinic in Tucson told us about 1/3 of the people who bring their pets in for care cannot afford to do the diagnostics recommended and/or the treatment.
Community cats with loving, doting caretakers often scrape money together just to feed those cats. They are spayed and neutered and loved. What if they get sick? What if they need dental care? How many community cat caretakers can afford dental care? How many average people can afford major dental treatment for their pets?
Behavioral support is another potentially resolvable concern. In 2018 about 300 pets were brought to PACC for behavioral or containment issues (NOT counting the 100 who reported human or animal aggression, which may also be resolvable). We know training takes a major commitment of time and effort, but when an owner is willing, cost is often the barrier. With a contribution to that cost the owner can get help AND prevent the NEXT family from having to deal with the same issue, possibly returning the pet after adoption to the shelter when they cannot (click here for info on ‘adoption returns’ FY 2018).
NKPC asks the community to help us help pets and their owners/caretakers when short term, low cost solutions are available. Cats in particular have always been underserved and we are lucky to have a donor who recognizes that. We are collaborating with several veterinary clinics and fundraising for matching dollars for our grant from the Bonnie Kay Fund held at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and to support owned and community cats, as well as to build a fund to help responsible dog owners, particularly with veterinary care.
NKPC continues to seek solutions to gaps in our community’s safety net for pets and their people as well as homeless pets and community cats.