Help for Low-Income Pets


Last week I was half-watching TV while surfing the net, and saw a commercial promoting a charitable venture in Rhode Island that helps lower-income people pay vet’s bills. I was a little surprised because let’s face it, that’s not the sort of thing you see on TV very often. I jotted down the name of the organization and looked them up on the net. Sure enough, there it was: The 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. I looked around the web site for awhile, thinking about what a great idea this is, and wondering what other resources are available to folks who love their pets but can’t afford to care for them when they are injured or sick.

Now, I’ve heard all the arguments about why the poor should not own pets, but whether you think this is so or not, the reality is that poor people do own pets. Saying that they shouldn’t doesn’t help those pets one little bit. This article is about finding the means to service animals in crisis, and not about whether their owners deserve to be helped. For me, it isn’t even a debatable question. I decided to do some research to find out just how extensive a safety net is available to low-income pets.

In a general sense, most of the available funding is administered through veterinary practices… they apply for the funds to help defray the cost for a particular patient and are paid directly. This means that office staff is required to do a lot of extra paperwork. I’m guessing that many vets do not have the labor force in place to take on these extra duties. Regular well-care visits and health maintenance procedures are usually not eligible for grant funding. In many cases, eligibility is tied to the pet owner’s participation in government assistance programs, although some grantors will allow veterinarians to use their discretion in selecting a potential grantee, backed up by some other supporting documentation of financial hardship. There’s often a ceiling on just how much funding a veterinary practice can access in a given year. There’s also usually a limit on how much help any one pet family can get.

One of the first sites I visited was the Humane Society of the United States. They do not have funds available for vet care, but they have a page of suggestions for pet owners in distress. Some of the suggestions are pretty good. They suggest having a heart to heart talk with your vet. That’s a good suggestion because vets usually know where financial help is available - they’ve been down that road many, many times. Others suggestions seem less than helpful - things like “use your credit card” or “call your bank” or “ask your employer for a salary advance” are hardly helpful to people with no credit, tiny bank accounts and slave wage jobs.

Some funders require that you apply for a CreditCare card before they will consider your application for assistance. I had a good look at their web site and their application. Not all vets accept CreditCare, so an applicant needs to find out if their vet is among them. The terms for the promotions they had on the site were quite generous by credit card standards, but when the promotion is over, the deal isn’t quite so sweet. However, if a grantor requires that potential grantees apply, I guess there’s not much choice in the matter.

Run a search for “help with vet bills” and the American Animal Hospital Association’s Helping Pets Fund pops up near the top of the list. This program is available only to accredited AAHA practices. The fund provides for both financial hardship cases when the pet’s owner is unable to pay for care, and Good Samaritan cases when no owner can be found and the veterinarian chooses to treat the animal regardless.

IMOM - In Memory of Magic, is actively seeking volunteers to continue its work of providing veterinary care for pets whose owners are facing financial challenges. I spent a lot of time on this web site, and I think it’s among the best of its genre. It has a friendly, personal, compassionate feel that I know I would really appreciate if my pet was in need of medical care and I had no money. An approved applicant gets a “pets in need” page introducing the pet and the family, and sponsors are recruited to fund the animal’s medical needs. The site includes an active online community of pet parents and sponsors. At present, their need for help is go great that they are unable to accept new applications for assistance. I e-mailed them to ask if they’d be amenable to my spreading the word about this, and received a timely reply. They suggest that anyone who is interested in volunteering for IMOM join their online community to get a sense of how their system works before applying. There’s a new training session starting in a couple of weeks, so if you think that it might be something you’d like to do, surf on over there and check it out!

Angels4Animals, a segment of California-based Inner Voice Community Services, administers a “Guardian Angel” program. Potential beneficiaries fill out an eligibility assessment application. Working with a network of veterinary clinics across the United States, Angels4Animals verifies the need for assistance, makes financial arrangements with the clinic and authorizes the treatment needed to save the pet in distress. Donations to the program are gratefully accepted and opportunities for volunteers are available.

The Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance Program is a funding mechanism to help cats and kittens with life-threatening conditions. It has the stated goals of providing rapid decisions and responses to assistance requests; a minimum of procedures and paperwork to get assistance; and comprehensive help to solve problems through financial assistance, information and/or referral. Their “Kobi Fund” is devoted to helping victims of Vaccine Associated Sarcoma. They have several options for donating to the cause, including donation of items (or buying donated items) for their e-bay auctions.

The Pet Fund provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals who need veterinary care and cannot afford expensive surgery or medical treatment. Applicants must call the Pet Fund and discuss their needs before applying for funding online. They can’t fund emergency care, and there is a waiting list for funding. I was a little taken aback by their web site, which seems to have a similar mindset to the HSUS site and focuses heavily on pet insurance and credit options.

These are the sites I was able to find with a few hours of research. I think it would be useful to pull together a database of help sites for low-income pets in distress. If you know of any organizations that provide help with vet’s bills, please post it for us!

74 Responses to “Help for Low-Income Pets”

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  1. ewem says:

    I didn’t know itchmo was back. This is a great resource.

    Not everyone starts out poor. Lose a job and the vet bill becomes impossible.

    Not only that but poor people keep animals alive that otherewise might not have homes. These animals are also poor but proud, and so many contribute to the safety of the home, as defenders, mousers and best friends who need us as much as we need them

    I have dreamed that if I ever won the lotto, I would attempt to help pet owners with vet bills. It is also a worthy cause to help the elderly maintain their beloved companions, and to make a home for pets whose owners have died.

    I will be busy saving all these links provided. Thanks a bunch

  2. Deb says:

    My husband’s 7 month battle with advanced throat cancer has placed us among the “poor pet owner” community. The state we live in is severely lacking in volunteer help for those battling cancer, for family and caregiver support. This has made a difficult situation almost unbearable for my husband, our daughter and myself at times. In all honesty, I am completely exhausted. Our 2 girls (dober and german shepard, both rescued) are past due for shots and I just found out today that the bag of Pedigree donated by a friend is likely among the recent recall. Heaven help us if this food is contaminated. Heaven help us is all we’re facing.

    When we get through this very difficult time, I’m going to volunteer the best of my time and resources to cancer patients and their beloved pets.

    When any suffering being needs help, “poor” is irrelevant.

  3. johnypaycut says:

    yo’ tell me i can’t have a pet? im a vietnam marine.. the only thing
    that’s kept me from PTS is my pal? if you wannta take “companion” animal
    i suggest you find a far-away hole to live in?
    in 1969 all my friends died, the 1’s i’d know? i don’t have much now.
    only my memories ,and my companion “animal”.

    (remember you jerks that poison the dogs and cats? every dog has it’s day?)

  4. Gabby says:

    This is a great site. Good info.

  5. Dawn says:

    Hello My name is Dawn and I live in Michigan. I was wondering if you had any info on low income vets here? I bought a puppy which lived only 3 weeks a Newfoundland., The owner replaced her for only 150 the Runt, Sheis now sick with the same symptoms of the puppythat just died, I am on dissbility and don’t have alot of money but she needs emergency care and I need to know if you could please help me out…Thank you..

  6. Kerr Ciaramello says:

    I am asking you if there is some help for me i live in Warwick RI I need some help my dog got lose and have gotting pregnet by a stray dog I can not have these pup and it will kill her i took her from a abusive Home and I know she has had to many litters already She is 3 years old i dont want to have to put her to sleep but i can not watch her die have these pup she is a full blooded Pitbull she has been through enough if there is some way you can help me to get these pups adorted i would appecate it very much. I am living on a SSI check each month i dont have the money to do this myself. Thaank you Please Email me back at

  7. Beagle Girl says:

    The mortgage/housing crisis is not only hitting people…it is hitting pets as well! Pets are being abandoned in record numbers. Sad, but true.

  8. Karen says:

    Hi, just a thank you for taking the time to do all this research. I am disabled, and take sole care of my 85yr old mother whom is in poor health. I have two boxers and one is in need of medical funding. I always managed somehow on my low income, but taking on my mother for the last 5yrs, has made it extremely hard. Without my boxers, my heart would be totally empty. They are so full of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, and they are ALL I have. My 85yr old Mum is precious to me, and I struggle to do all I can to take care of her and give her peace in her final years.
    I just wish I could find a LITTLE help with my white boxer boy. He needs some surgery to remove a possible cancerous growth, and bloodwork. He is in training to be my service animal. Two years ago I lost my 9yr old white boxer to an inoperable tumor, He was my service animal. Sure made life much easier for me to walk.
    Again, thank you for these leads.. I’d be more than grateful if you know of anyone in our area that can help. Sedona, Arizona.
    God Bless you again for taking the time to put this page together.

  9. Jo says:

    I live in Warwick RI and have been searching for 2 days now trying to find help for low income pet owners. My dog Cody has been lying on the floor for 3 days now. He started with limping one day and than the next day he just would not get up. He is eating and drinking but has to be carried outside. I know I need to get him to a vet and I have called all the local Vets and can not seem to find anyone who will help. Cody is suffering because I at this horrible time do not have the funds to get him the vet care he deperately needs. PLEASE, if anyone knows where I can go from here, let me know. I don’t know what to do and its not fair to let Cody suffer because I have no money. My email is Please please help..

  10. pr says:

    rhode islanders please visit

  11. pet supplies says:

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  12. Christine says:

    I am so glad that you posted this story. No one really and truly thinks about the costs associated with owning pets. I’m glad there is help for low income individuals. But people really should consider their financial picture before making the decision to get a pet. Someone posted a very similar story in the forums section of our site “”

  13. Laura and family says:

    Hi. I hope I can find some help on one of these. I have always been a “responsible” pet owner from the time I was able. I have “saved” pets from kill shelters and nonkill and donated money when I was unable to rescue. I always spay and neuter and get the shots-going to extreme expense in some cases of abandoned on the street animals my daughter brought home.
    I have also made some mistakes that haunt me and her to this day. But never intentionally.
    Anyway I am indigent now. I lost my job and am applying for SSDI which takes forever even though I put into the system for 30 years. I need surgery myself and so does my daughter-but no way can I afford it now. The company I worked for for 20 years relieved me and most of the other contributing employees of most of our 401k and stocks when they filed bankruptcy. I used what little I had to take care of our dogs last year. Now my wonderful city is threatening us with court fees and possibly taking our animals-who were rescued by us in the first place! They are inside dogs and have a back yard to run in.
    It seems to be a habit with our city-maybe our country-that when someone honestly cant pay-we RAISE the amount owed. And threaten with more costs and possibly jail time-which of course simply costs taxpayers more. I do not understand this place. I have tried to do right-and donate to charities etc. when I had money-sure is hard to get any help now though. I paid for the 3 year rabies thank GOD. They arent a hazard to anyone else-but my city wants that money and is accusinig me of NOT being responsible. Its really sad. thanks for putting this out there.

  14. Laura says:

    Hell of a lot of “poor people” out there-hell of a lot of pets in shelters. Wasnt just “poor” people who put them there either. Like the one guy said-you dont always start out poor-and even if you do-so what? Some people are just plain full of themselves-oughta remember the one about “there but for the grace of GOD go I”.
    thanks for posting things to HELP EVERYONE

  15. lucy karayan says:

    my cats love to eat, but imeging , if i wont give them food , what can hapen, it is time for open an organization for support animals… low income people who wants to an addapt pets, if be like that in the shelters no one can stay

  16. Olivia Sarbu says:

    Can anybody help me?
    I am in the exact same situation with my dog, Billy (chihuahua). I am very desperate and don’t know what to do. My dog got hit by a car so I took him to the emergency room where the doctor told me the diagnostic was hernia and they had to perform emergency surgery on him otherwise he would die. I paid $800 before the surgery and agreed to pay the remaining balance of $1700 after. They did the surgery and my dog is fine but they won’t release him to me unless I pay the full amount I owe to them. I asked the doctor if I can make payments but she didnt accept. I cant afford to pay this amount in such a short period of time and they want to put him in a shelter. The doctor told me she’s only gonna hold him for a couple more days and I am afraid they’re gonna put him to sleep at the shelter. Can anybody help me in any way? I LOVE my dog very much and I would do anything to save him. Thank you.

  17. Kim says:

    Hi, I’m from Illinois and have been looking for information on vets for low income, I lost my Job last October and now my cat needs surgery for a mamory gland tumor which costs $300 at a local vet which at this time is hard to come up with. I have done some research myself by typing in low income vets and there are some listed according to zip code, you can also contact 1-800-321-Pets for an application for a discount on neutering and spading dogs and cats it runs $65 for female cats and $51 for male cats $90 for female dogs and sorry but I can remember the cost for male dogs. If you have a pit they have a website for pitpals that if its a pit bull or pit mix they do it for free. There is also the this site helps to find local vets in your area that do hardship cases according to your income scale. I hope this helps because my animals are my family and I love them to death, I refuse to give up just because I fell into hard times and they don’t deserve it either. This website is great keep up the good work.
    Thanks again and good luck!!!!

  18. Trish says:

    My roommate threw my 2 year old main coon out the back door. I could not stop him. It broke his femur in a severe fracture. I called the police and took him to emergency 24 hour vet immediately. The vet tried to set it and bandage it. But was pretty sure it would need surgery. This was 2 days ago. She has kept him over night to keep him comfortable and sedated him and reset the bone twice trying different bandages. I paid the 400 dollar bill for the emergency care and she has been kind enough to keep treating him with out charging me more. But it is going to require surgery. He is in severe pain even with medication. My heart is breaking cuz I have a choice of paying half the surgery and making payments on the rest OR moving me and my children out of this abusive situation. If I can not get the surgery to fix his leg the only humane thing to do is put him down. And for me and my children Tigger is our family. It will break all our hearts. I dont know what to do. 702-325-2965

  19. Mad About Pets says:

    What a great resource! I know we have spay/neuter clinics and immunization clinics for free here, but I’m not sure about other vet bills. I am going to check into that; I hope Wisconsin has something similar.

  20. Maida Genser says:

    Even moderate income people are discriminated against. People who choose to live in association-run housing, especially lower-end housing of this type, inmost cases have no-pet deed restrictions. Our non-profit organization, Citizens FOR Pets in Condos is working to get companion animals accepted in condos and other types of association-run housing. We educate the public about the health benefits of having animal companions, the need to be responsible pet parents, and about how to make changes in your own community. Our motto: “creating a win-win situation for both people and pets.”

  21. Matt Flower says:

    I live in around the Traverse City Michigan area. The cost of the basic shots for the dogs is just way to much. For one that is on SSDI. When I was working I could work the Vets in & keep up with the shots. I have one dog that was left by my ex-wife. One dog that was to watch for two weeks for a so called friend. That was four years ago. Both dogs ened up here with me. They are add in the living care as part as the family. As they basic shots are due. I called the vets in our area. The shots are going to cost 108.00 for both dogs this month. Added in with the House & Auto insurance with the other bills to live. I have to step back & take a look at what bills need to be paid. The 108.00 can go another bill to keep the lights or gas on. I need a place to call home for Myself & the dogs. The dogs will have to wait, bills need to be paid. I have tried to make payment plans with these vets. Not one will set up a plan to pay. So, when I can fine a different way to pay a lower price or have help with their shots. It will be on hold. Hope that the Animal Control don’t step in I what to fine me for not having their shots & tags updated. It will end up as another bill that can’t be paid. Then another day in court explianing why I can’t pay for the vets bills. The Animal Control people will just say. If you can’t afford a pet then don’t have one. I didn’t plan to live on SSDI & alone in this house. Without the two dogs living here. I would go crazy not having someone to talk too. Mean time I will keep looking for some help out there for my friends that live with me. Hopefully all things will work out. If there is anyone that can point me in the right direction on information. Feel Free to help.

  22. J.R. Hanggi says:

    I desperately need some help with my dog!
    I have a three year old german shephard that I was able to remove from some very abusive people. He has a bump on his right hip that is cancer. I have been taking him to the University of Minnesota for care, he needs more but I am out of money. I drive a school bus for a living and have a hard time paying my bills. I have to pay in full when I pick him up. I can’t let him die. Can you please help me or direct me to someone that can? He is a very sweet dog. He had a bad start in life and I can’t let it end this way.
    I am anxiously waiting for your answer, please help me.
    Thank you.
    With kind regards.

    J.R. Hanggi 651-335-6356

  23. L. G. says:

    Thank you for your dedication and comittment in helping others ~ it’s truly appreciated ~ God Bless you.

  24. itchmo admin says:

    This blog is currently not active. Please join our discussion forums at This thread may be of help as it breaks down places to look for assistance state-by-state.

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