The relationships we have with our pets should transcend all boundaries. They offer us unconditional love and support, they lend a helping paw when we’re down, and they give us loving smiles and wet kisses to cheer us up. Unfortunately for some, the cost of caring for a pet can be too high. Enter: Pets for Life, one of the many pet assistance programs offered by the Humane Society of the United States and supported by Florida Animal Friend.
Pets for Life focuses on increasing access to pet services for those in underserved and low-income communities via proactive community outreach programs, mentorship, and training. For those who cannot afford proactive pet care, services offered through Pets for Life mean the world; community members can access low-cost or free pet assistance programs to keep caring for their lifelong animal friends. This also helps eliminate the need to surrender pets who cannot be cared for.
Services and Cost
Services offered by Pets for Life are truly comprehensive and include spay and neuter surgery, vaccinations, pet food, and supplies like collars and leashes. It can also include any pet behavioral support and return-to-owner fees. For those in designated areas, services are automatically free.
The Importance of Low-Cost Spay and Neuter Programs
For those who live at or near the poverty line, caring for pets isn’t attainable without help. Spay or neuter surgery can be expensive without low-cost or free pet care programs, but it helps keep pets healthy and reduces pet overpopulation. If a pet is not spayed or neutered, it introduces another level of unsustainable care as it can produce unexpected litters that pet owners can be unprepared to care for.
The Challenges of Low-Cost Pet Care Programs
Many low-cost pet care assistance programs are met with challenges like limited infrastructure and waiting lists for services as there are not enough resources, like veterinarians and pet clinics, to support the need. At times, it can also be challenging for staff to focus on the needs of a situation, such as doing whatever it takes to keep a pet with its owner, instead of focusing on, and sometimes stigmatizing, the individual.
For many pet owners, a number of barriers can stand in the way of reaching low-cost pet care programs. Often, these barriers are centered around financial challenges, such as the ability to afford basic pet health care and food. For others, it may be access to a veterinary clinic. To help alleviate these challenges, many veterinarians and other organizations offer free vet care for low-income families while also providing longer, more flexible hours.
Transportation is also a major challenge, as many low-income pet owners do not have personal vehicles and public transportation may not allow pets. Pets for Life understands this, so it automatically offers programs for low-income pet owners, such as free transportation. Removing the transportation barrier allows more people to get the care they need for their pets to live long, healthy lives.
Advice for Those Considering Providing Low-Cost Pet Care Services
For clinics and agencies thinking about offering programs for pets with low-income families, start by checking out the resources and toolkits available online at Pets for Life. You’ll learn how to start a program and sustain it with fundraisers, grants, social media campaigns, and more. There are also resources for preparing your team to more fully understand racial and economic justice and the impacts this can have on pet owners from all walks of life.
It’s important to see your community as a partner and work with your team and staff to understand how animal welfare is part of a larger system of which we’re all deserving.
The Florida Animal Friend Grant
Florida Animal Friend offers a grant that can help pet care clinics and similar organizations begin or continue their low-cost or no-cost spay and neuter programs. It’s a great starting place that helps open the door for programs like this to exist within communities. Once pet clinics and organizations have obtained a grant, it’s important to promote offered services to help get the word out to new and existing pet owners who may be in need of services.
To help support Florida Animal Friend in its mission to provide grants to Pets for Life and other pet care organizations, purchase a Florida Animal Friend specialty license plate. Proceeds in the amount of $25 from each license plate, both new and renewed, are used exclusively to fund the free and low-cost spay and neuter programs across Florida.
Source: Amanda Arrington, Senior Director of the Pets for Life Program