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 thoughts on “Help for Low-Income Pets

  1. The poor should not be barred from the unconditional love and companionship that a pet could give. Many times, these beloved animal companions are the only ray of joy and comfort in a poor person’s life.

  2. I was saddened that this article would suggest that anyone, anywhere does not deserve teh love of an animal (or what next, a child). The article states “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.”… WHO WOULD HAVE ANY ARGUMENT for a person not having a pet?

    it is classist to think that the only people who deserve pets are those who can provide life styles for their pet that those of us in the middle class or above would deem “acceptable”.

    I have known homeless people who’s lives are enriched by their dogs. Dogs that would otherwise survive on teh street alone, survive on the street with a friend. To suggest that the homeless person does not deserve that pet just because he cannot spay or neuter is ludicrous.

    I know single elderly people (often men) who have no other companionship than a pet, and they share the meager foods they have with said beloved pet. Again, it is not a crime to be poor, and it is not a crime to love an animal who would otherwise be unloved.

    I’ve love to see the “arguments” against a poor person having a pet.

  3. I volunteer with a rescue group, and we have often had people call for help with vet bills. Frequently they have been quoted huge amounts by one vet and never thought to call other vets for an estimate.

    A few years ago I did an informal poll of vet practices in our area. I took a list of pretty common procedures and medications and called vet offices in this area to get prices on those things. What I found was that there could be as much as a 160% difference between the cost from one vet to another.

    So I often tell people to check with other vet offices and see what price the procedure would be. I’ve had people report back that they got what they needed for their pet for half of what they had been originally quoted just by shopping with other vets.

    People need to realize that they have the option of asking for prices and looking for more reasonable costs. Local rescue groups usually have a pretty good feel for what vets are pricier than others in the area.

  4. I don’t know of any that pay vet bills. i’ll find some though. But I know one that provides pet food for the elderly for free. PAWS. So, if you have PAWS in your community, find out if they can help with the food.

  5. Please don’t think that “the poor” are the only ones who can’t always afford vets. It is a fact that many vets are pricing themselves far above people medicine and way out of the range of affordability. I speak from experience too when I say that many vets refuse to accept charitable organizations’ donated surgical or (for example) chemotherapy grant monies because it is “too much trouble” to fill out the paperwork the charity wants to see from the vet. In my case the granting foundation wanted a one-line statement of necessity that surgery was needed to save the pet’s life. My vet’s response was “I don’t give a f*** if your dog dies I’m not dealing with any g*d*** charity.” And I quote. The vets I’ve seen in recent years have become unbelievably greedy and care far less about the animal than about the money. “Talk to your vet” — Hah! You do this and you’ll get ONE response which is EUTHANIZE. Until vets realize that even with an average steady income you can’t fork over 15 grand cash upfront for some surgeries, more dogs and cats will die because that terrible choice has to be made. One local vet’s candid comment overheard at a recent horse show “gee I wonder what the poor folks are doin’ tonite, good thing I only take RICH clients”!

  6. The thing I find most interesting is as a general rule, the largest and best funded “charaties”, when the rubber meets the road, do the least good with the funds they receive. The closest they come to helping pets is to provide whopping salaries to fat cat directors. Outfits such as PETA and HSUS strike me as being at the top of those lists. When you sort through their agendas, it’s all blow and no go.

    In the mean time, in the last 7 years, the price of a gallon of milk, a gallon of gas, a pound of hamburger and a pound of butter have all trippled, while the value of a dollar has been cut in half. Energy and housing prices have skyrocketed, government spending (funded by tax payers) has gone through the roof, along with the price of health care. In short, everything the average working American needs in the way of bare, basic necessities has more than doubled, while wages have for all practical purposes been frozen at what they were before the value of a dollar fell through the floor. To add injury to injury, tax payers are now being asked to pick up the tab on the credit bubble responsible for skyrocketing inflation and the devaluation of the dollar. No kidding! The bankers that wiped out our economy are being bailed out with our tax dollars, and the current plan is to bail them out further by picking up the slack on sub prime lending and upside down equity loans.

    Sheesh, who isn’t poor these days compared to where we were before the Bush crime family’s corporate reign of terror? The sad part is, as the article points out, the outfits with the best programs have the least funding. There are always more people in need of help than there people willing to help.

    I know quite a few people who are caring and loving pet parents, in spite of not having much money. Most of them would go hungry rather than skimp on their pet’s care. At the same time, while the ones I know have so far been blessed with healthy pets, a medical emergency would wipe them out. And that’s assuming natural causes, and doesn’t include epidemics caused by poisoned pet food that tens of thousands of pet owners are still trying to pay for while the companies responsible duck out on the liabilities.

    In any case, thanks to Ms. Richard for doing the research and for drawing attention to the various efforts. America is getting to be a scarier place to live every day that goes by, but as long as there are people willing to try to make a difference, maybe there’s hope.

  7. Anyone who says the rich treat their animals better has forgotten Michael Vick. The great things he could have done for animals with all the money he pissed away on betting and breeding fighting dogs… well enough said.

  8. Roxanne: You should seriously consider making your vet your ex-vet. Because if that’s his/her attitude, I’d question whether he actually gives a g*d*** about your pet.

  9. It is important that animal rescue/welfare groups find ways to enable pet owners to keep their pets. The lack of funds for veterinarian care should not become an excuse for dumping pets at shelters. Pets enrich the lives of all children. Any effort that makes life better for animals will enrich life as we know it.
    Hurray for those who can pay cosly vet fees, and thank heavens someone has finally realized that everyone cannot .
    I hope the idea of vet care aid funds will catch on. Pets, people, veterinarians, and animal shelters will all benefit. Donation dollars finally working!

  10. I just did a blog post with a listing for every group I could find that helps assist the poor or elderly with veterinary costs —

    Please, please – if you know of any others, add them in the comments, as I’ll be doing another post with the enhanced list within the month.

  11. Don Earl- I love your assessment of the govt and america over the last seven years! You really summed it up beautifully in one paragraph!

    It is nice to know, Mary, that you took the time to do that research. I had a cat emergency recently and ended up with a $900 bill for a two night vet stay and tons of antibiotics and shots (my cat almost died from a virus that was unseen before). I wish now that I would have shopped around but it was an emergency life or death situation and now I am still paying my credit card bill from it. And its worth EVERY PENNY.

    No animals should be denied love regardless of their human’s situation. My feeling is, if you do have an emergency, just always have a credit card or a small savings (that you can use for at least a down pymt on the bill – many vets allow monthly pymts) that you can keep as a last resort. Its worth saving your pet’s life I think. I fully realize that charging $900 on a credit card was a bad idea becuase now I’m paying so much interest. But, again, it is worth every cent.


  12. Thank you for this article. Anyone who feels inclined to pass judgement on another’s financial status needs to walk a mile in their moccasins first.

  13. I used to volunteer at an animal shelter doing many different things. My problem was that I couldn’t run it my way. I still contribute financially, but have stopped physically participating. Feeling the need to do something else for animals that no one was doing here, I started supplying the fire department with animal O2 resuscitation masks. This venture is almost complete as the department will have all the masks they wanted at the end of this month.

    I was considering starting such a financial assistance program for underprivileged cats in my area. If I registered a charity, or collaborated with an existing one, at the very least, I can get a tax receipt for my $$. All I have done is with my own money (and my husband’s beer empties). I am very fortunate to have a great job and not too many costs for living, choosing philanthropy instead of crazy home renovations and trips to far away places. I am not rich, but am a great money manager. The problem I have been having with this endeavor, though, is deciding on the criteria that would qualify someone as “unable to pay” as opposed to “unwilling to find a way to pay.” Many folks won’t sacrifice the gas for the car and take the bus to pay the vet bills.

    How do you ensure that your money is really going to a deserving family? Anyone?

  14. I have been a fan of itchmo for a longgg time now, but have never posted any responses– but this topic is one that is VERY close to my heart. 3 years ago I suddenly found myself disabiled. I had enough money saved to get through the first year okay (I’ll try not to ramble on too much). Then suddenly the money was gone. I adopted several puppies (my dream was always to have a “houseful” of children, but since that wasn’t going to happen, I decided I fullfill my dream w/ the wonderful love of puppies), as part of my therapy, and I can honestly tell you, that I would not be alive today if it weren’t for my loving, devoted puppies. When the money ran out, all the friends/family that had once enjoyed the “bounty” of my financial success, were either no where to be found, or passing the buck to someone else. I can’t tell you how often I feel guilty about having these wonderful puppies and yet not being able to afford them. I want to thank everyone for not condemning us “poor” people for having these wonderful, truly livesaving animals as companions. There’s so much more to my story, I’d like to share, but I’ll keep it confined to this. Thank you for your compassion and openmindedness at seeing the value of the human/animal bond, despite, or in spite of financial status.

    trudy & the 20 Tiny Paws: tipsy, tallulah, tarzan, truffles & tootsie

    see us at:

  15. My guys narrowly avoided awful vet bills as a result of the pet food recall, but I choked on the work that had to be done for my new rescue cat last year (cancer and hyperthyroidism). I resorted to PetCard ( which is a Canadian subsidiary of MediCard – like CareCredit in the US. Their rates are credit card rates but they were quick to approve while I was at the veterinary hospital having the initial assessment done.

    As Don said, it’s hard for middle class people to afford any extras these days. I’d like to go back in time to college days when you could live pretty well on student earnings (oh, and be that young again for other reasons)…

  16. Don

    Ingrid Newkird makes under $40,000 a year….hardly qualifies as a fat cat.

    You can check out salaries on Charity Navigator.

  17. I remember reading during the dreadful recall days about a young man who had to euthanize his pet because he was unemployed. He was a professional person (programmer I think) but understandably didn’t have the $$$ for expensive vet care then. Point is – even pet owners who are not poor by any means can lose jobs, incur financial hardships for many reasons, and not have the money for expensive vet treatments. Organizations like this are long overdue.

  18. Great article! Thank you for posting it! I find it very timely, as I am due to be laid off in a month. We have 9 cats at home. OUCH.

    Don Earl, great post, as always.

    I think it’s wrong to say that the poor shouldn’t have pets. Next, people will be saying the poor shouldn’t have CHILDREN. Poor is not a choice. A lot of times, Poor happens when you lose a job or have a sudden illness or an accident–a lot of things can happen.

    Carol, thanks for the link to your blog. I have bookmarked it.

    Trudy, your pups are adorable!

    ~The Lioness

  19. Lioness– thank you for taking the time to check out our website. It’s nothing fancy by todays standards, but it’s all I need to showcase my wonderful babies.

    have a woof-erful day,

    trudy & 20 tiny paws

  20. RE: “Ingrid Newkird makes under $40,000 a year?.hardly qualifies as a fat cat.”

    Let’s see, that would be the same Ingrid Newkird of PETA that has been living on donations for animals for 30 years, while writing 16 books on which she receives royalties, that are shamelessly hyped through the organization?

    I read one of her books (it was a gift) and it’s the only book I’ve ever thrown in the trash.

    PETA received $31 million last year, euthanized over 3000 companion animals, and found homes for about 30. In other words, each companion animal saved by PETA costs about a million dollars.

    Two of PETA’s vice presidents make about $70K each, and its head pet executioner makes over $100K.

    I rest my case and am not impressed. The best funded charities typically amount to slush funds for a select few that couldn’t get a job driving a wheelbarrow if they ever actually had to work for a living.

  21. Roxanne dump that vet! money is all he cares about love the attitude he has and tell him why your getting rid of him. when My muffn became ill with lymphoma it was thousands to try and save her. Let me tell you there was no vet that would cut us any slack and we went in to debt trying to take care of her. my husbands company had just closed and he is working for much less money and we now drive older vehicles because of it but she was most important. I only have one dog because that is all I can afford to take care of. I am not really sure if people that can’t afford to take care of them should have them. I mean some times they just run wild and don’t go to the vets. Then you are denying them love. In Detroit lots of dogs and cats run wild and are not cared for. I am not sure if they would be taken to the vet if it were paid for. some of those people just don’t care. I guess the nice poor people should have them. I don’t know sorry if I don’t make sense with this. a lot of poor people neglect their own kids so they are not going to take care of a dog or cat. I guess I would like to see only responsible people have animals but there should be help for vet bills. its very expensive. I hope you all know what I am trying to say. take care

  22. I volunteered for a rescue and adoption group that funded emergency care for needy people in the community. One lady was a drug addict who “worked the streets,” and she would not let the bill be paid by the group. She repaid every penny. So did some others. Most disappeared with their pets after they were better, and the shelter group was left with a huge vet bill. There needs to be a better way, I agree.
    The woman I mentioned was very poor by most standards, but loved her dog and took responsibility.
    One vet I know has an emergency fund that people can donate to, and that’s a big help. Nobody wants to be too broke to care for their pets, but who would have hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars for ANY emergency right at hand?
    It would be good if local emergency vet services cared enough to work with the ones who need time to pay, as well. The one in my area turns animals away if they can’t guarantee payment on the spot.
    Thanks again for all the good information. And Trudy, you have a beautiful little family!

  23. gumshoe

    I sooo appreciate you taking the time to look at my kids pictures. I think they’re a pretty adorble bunch too– ha ha.

    have a woof-erful day,

    trudy & the 20 tiny paws

  24. Pet ownership for low income families is a great idea and good for the person’s emotional well being. Many pets suffer at the hands of well heeled people so being poor has little to do with responsible ownership.

  25. A few appropos comments – I am thrilled to see some really right-minded people posting here as so many forums attract very strange ducks indeed. As a career paralegal I see lots of statistics cross my desk and consider this: the majority of bankruptcies are filed because the person lost their job through no fault of their own, or the person became ill and overwhelmed with medical bills; also, the largest percentage of homeless or living in shelter folks are single women with children whose fathers are deadbeat dads. Someone once said the greatest crime in America is being poor. (PS I did fire that vet with the greatest of pleasure and enjoy telling everyone who will listen what he said and did – and I name names; unfortunately I couldn’t sue the so and so.)

  26. Trudy, the pups are adorable. I have large dogs so having 5 would be a real house buster, but having 5 small ones would be a blast. I bet you have tons of fun with them.

  27. “Ingrid Newkird makes under $40,000 a year….hardly qualifies as a fat cat.”

    But it does qualify her as someone who makes $40,000 a year to slaughter 97% of the pets turned in to her “shelter”. I would complain if she earned one penny per year. $40,000 is outrageous. She’s not a “fat cat” but neither are any of the DEAD cats she and her organization toss into supermarket dumpsters.

  28. I find all of your comments to be very interesting. My personal opinion is that an animal should not have to suffer simply because their caretaker is financially challenged.

    How does anyone know when their pet is going to need non-routine vet care? Veterinary medicine has advanced greatly over the years. The advancement comes with a hefty price tag.

    At IMOM we get applications from all sorts of people. I will admit we are very picky about who gets approved for financial aid. We have to be. I learned 10 years ago when IMOM started – there are people who want to help their pets but would rather use someone else’s money.

    IMOM has paid out in excess of $1,030,000.00 in veterinary care since 1998. There are no salaries.

    Contact PETA or HSUS and ask for financial aid. They will very likely send you directly to IMOM. UAN will usually make a donation but will also send you to IMOM for the remainder.

    And…if anyone is interested in setting up a charity like IMOM please contact me. I am more than happy to share experiences and help you as much as I can to get set up. The animal welfare community needs more charities to help these precious furkids.

    Or, maybe you might consider getting to know IMOM better and becoming a volunteer!!

    Jacki Hadra,
    IMOM Founder

  29. G in INdiana,

    Yes, we have soooo much fun. I knew there was NO way I could manage 5 big dogs (plus I have bad allergies so I needed pups that wouldn’t shed).
    I spend in a month to feed all 5 of my kids what a lot of people w/ big dogs spend in just a couple of weeks. I shower my kids w/ tons of love. They may not have the latest “puppy wear” or fancy collars or leashes, but they don’t care about those things, all they care about is being loved, having a full tummy and a safe & secure home/enviroment. I go w/o a lot things to ensure that they are provided for in the areas that count the most (health & nutrition). I have sold many things from vehicles to sewing machings to pay for their expenses. For me, my puppies are the glue that holds me together. We spend all of our together, and are seldom apart for more then 2 hours at a time, and that’s only a couple of times a week at the most. Thank you for taking the time to look at their pictures–it is greatly appreciated.

    have a woof-erful day,

    trudy & 20 tiny paws

    PS: I agree, I think they’re a mighty adorable bunch of kids too– ha ha.

  30. United Animal Nations (UAN) provides LifeLine grants to help those that wish to help animals in life threatening situations. They are available for Good Samaritans, animal rescuers, non-profit organizations and pet owners.

    Pretty cool organization really, they also have an Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) program that goes to disaster scenes to rescue animals, set up temporary shelters, and help local animal rescue groups until they can handle the situation themselves.

  31. I have one of the Banner Pets on IMOM. Her name is Annalise and she is one of the most amazing beings I have ever met. She was my foster through BrightStar German Shepherd Rescue-I was very lucky that they allowed me to foster her given her known behavioral issues. I was even luckier that they continued to support her when an unknown health issue was found at her first visit to my vet.

    She was diagnosed with a giant (well-that’s my term) heart murmur, likely caused when she was shot. The actual fistula was not found, due to its location, until she went in for surgery at Cornell University. With ultrasounds, x-rays, and then open heart surgery at Cornell, the rescue would have been billed about $3000. On top of all the other dogs who needed help.

    And then, just as luckily, I was told about IMOM. I sent in my application and Jacki wrote me back almost immediately. I had asked for a $300 grant but Anna’s story touched her and she asked me to apply for regular fundraising. We were accepted and I posted to the forum.

    Almost instantly, people replied and donations were sent to Anna’s account (and that money goes directly from donors to IMOM to the veterinary hospital-no chance for any issues). I was like…wait a minute, are you telling me that I tell you about this dog and you will give me money? That’s it? What is the catch? No catch! Just show how much you love your pet (and meet application requirements of course) and the money AND support flows in. The support is a fringe benefit.

    IMOM raised $1300 from individual donors who sent their money in for a dog they would never meet. We were lucky to have gotten a lower than expected surgery bill and only used $900 and had fundraised the remainder through candy bar sales, Guardian Angels and an animal communicator who donated his time for a presentation.

    So I think it’s really important to remember that “IMOM” doesn’t really have any money like a foundation or a grant source. That funding comes from individuals who clean out their couch cushions, forgo a fancy coffee, or who give some of their tax refund, all to help pets in need. I hope I said this right and that Jacki will correct me if I got it wrong. Low income people who love their animals, rescue people who can’t afford these huge bills on one animal-it is an amazing and special place and to watch fundraising on an emergency can send chills down your spine.

    All I know is that I have a beautiful dog (the rescue gave her to me fro Christmas) who would not have been with me without the help and support of many, and most definitely IMOM and Jacki Hadra.

  32. I most certainly vouch can voucher for Richard Laplante’s sentiment!
    We are a childless couple. Each with two jobs to survive. Still we manage to make time and energy for all the dogs we have ever owned. We are fortunate in that we have friends and family who will share the responsibility as well. It’s a real “It takes a village…” :-)

  33. Thanks Itchmo for the wonderful article.

    Purr-Purr died of Cat Renal Failure several months before the pet food recall started. I know it was the nasty Menu foods products at Trader Joe’s. Anyway, I wanted to take her to the vet, but could not afford it. I also tried to apply for one of those fancy pet credit card plans and could not qualify, the new vet did not want to bill, and I called a couple of places. Every where was no, no , no you need to pay when you receive service. It was an itchmo link on a pet recall news article that led me here where I finally got the answers as to what happened to Purr-Purr. How this beautiful, healthy cat just shrunk up and faded away because I had no way to pay.

    Thanks Itchmo.

  34. I would like to say just how refreshing and encouraging reading these responses has been. I am speaking to you from the perspective of a “poor person” who has pets. I’ve heard so much negative, critical, viscious rubbish from people about this topic…
    Here’s our story. I’m disabled. I suffer from a terminal cardiac condition, which is genetic and looks like it may also threaten my teenage daughters. I have a grand total of $972 a month to meet the needs of four humans and however many furry folks are here at the time. We work with cats that nobody else will take. We also end up being the local dumping ground for unwanted cats, with our without our consent. I am not the type of person who can watch a cat die needlessly or suffer needlessly. This puts us in some very rough situations since I can sometimes scarcely afford to feed my own human family, let alone all the furry folk who are depending on us. I’ve learned to shop specials, use coupon and pinch every penny til it howls just to survive. I spend most months deciding which bills can be stretched another month and which ones can’t. I spend a lot of sleepless time worrying about these things. I also spend a lot of sleepless nights nursing sick animals. My birthday and Christmas money every year inevitably goes toward either vet bills or flea medicine. Not so long ago we had an issue with receiving our benefits for a couple of months. I ate ramen noodles for two months for every meal, with a can of beans as a special treat once a week. This ended with my already fragile health being compromised further. We managed to keep our animals fed, though it entailed a lot of serious scraping, turning in cans we found along the road, selling off appliances that weren’t critical… you get the picture.

    We have thought of applying for non-profit status so we can be eligible for outside funding sources, but one has to have money to do that and I cannot 1). come up with the money needed 2). Justify spending all that money on a stupid piece of paper when there are always more cats in dire need of food, shelter and basic vet care. So we struggle on as best we can.

    And after all that, if I should finally break down and ask for help, what do I hear? “You shouldn’t have pets if you can’t afford to care for them”. Just where do these people think the extra, unwanted animals of the world will go? Maybe the people who think this can go sit outside my house and intercept the irresponsible scum who feel absolved of all culpability for that animal if they dump it here because they “know we’ll take care of it”? Seriously, if there’s a well-to-do person who wants to take a cat (or three), I would gleefully send said cat(s) on to a privileged life, with access to all the niceties I cannot provide. But with so few homes and so many unwanted animals, what’s a poor person to do? Beyond that normal “not enough homes” issue, there’s the additional issue that if a cat ends up at our house, they are invariably in bad, bad shape. Some never recover and are thus even less desirable to potential adopters. Should they be put to death because they’ve been victims all their lives and cannot recover mentally or physically enough to fit into a “normal” home”? We don’t think so. Are they better off dead than they are with a poor family who, nonetheless, loves them dearly and unconditionally? We don’t think so. And if they are going to die no matter what measures are taken to save them, should they die alone, in a cold room at the local pound or should they die with dignity and love, surrounded by a family? My wallet can be empty, but my heart is always full of love.

    In a perfect world, nobody would be unable to provide care for their loved ones, furry or otherwise. But in a perfect world every child and every animal would be born into an adoring home where they are wanted. This is no perfect world we inhabit and as long as people try to shovel blame off on others, whether due to income level, race, religion, sexual orientation or some other completely irrelevant factor, we will never reach a solution, except to discourage and eventually break the people who are striving to do the best they can with the resources available.

    Thank you so much, all of you folks who made such understanding, insightful posts. You made my day a lot brighter.

  35. A few years ago, there was quite a bit of discussion in the media about saving the social security system.

    When I was a young fellow, just entering the job market, I sat down one day and calculated the taxes I was paying into social security as a compound interest problem at 6%. Compound interest is kind of amazing. It doesn’t look like much to start with, but over a period of decades it really adds up.

    Here’s what I found in working the problem: A person putting approximately a thousand dollars a year into an account at 6% interest, from age 18, until age 65, would retire with over a million dollars in the bank. It sounds incredible, but it’s true.

    Now, here’s what I found in researching the problems with our social security system. Since its inception, it has been used as a slush fund for out of control government spending. Instead of a savings plan to protect the future of working Americans, anything over and above the current year’s retirement benefits goes into a general fund and is spent. To date, nearly $2 trillion has been for all practical purposes stolen from social security, robbing every man, woman and child in this country of their future. $2 trillion is such a staggering amount of money, it’s difficult to grasp how much money it really is.

    To get a feel for how much it is, invested in asset backed securities, such as real estate, the interest on that much money would be enough to pay every person that retires, a lump sum of one million dollars, WITHOUT PAYING ANOTHER DIME INTO THE SYSTEM IN NEW TAXES, EVER.

    A few congress critters quietly suggested maybe the system could be saved simply by ceasing the practice of bleeding it white. The suggestion fell on deaf ears, and everything is business as usual, with no more media attention, and no solutions in sight.

    Think about it. Think of every working American spending their golden years in comfort and without want. Think of them being in a position to support the causes they believe in, get the best educations for their children and grand children, and being in a position to have something to pass on to their loved ones when they go.

    This is what has been stolen from you. The part I can’t figure out is why no one seems to be mad about it.

  36. Re the costs of pet ownership, i.e., veterinary attention, less than one percent of pet owners have pet insurance. There are at least a dozen reputable pet insurance companies offering basic, catastrophic insurance: illness and accident. You can get insurance for such things as dental maintenance, but most carriers offer a straightforward basic policy. Check out

  37. I am of the opinion that the term “reputable insurance” is an oxymoron. If you want skyrocketing veterinary service costs, by all means let’s bring the insurance industry into it. Then they can do for pet care what they’ve done for human medical care… make it impossible for the average working person to afford it.

  38. I recently learned that both vaccinations and microchips are available from the county animal control (usually at the shelters) for very low cost to anyone who is a county resident.

    Here in So. Ca. where I live, chips are only $15 (vs. $50 at the vet) and rabies shots are only $6 (vs. $60 at my vet) – so it’s worth checking into. They WILL require a license fee if you don’t have a license. Each state (maybe even each county) will be different.

    I enjoy Itchmo greatly – keep up the good work!

  39. I spoke to Ben last year during the pet food recall.
    Feline Outreach is a charitable organization formed to promote the routine and medical care of companion animals, particularly cats. No one at our organization receives salaries. Some of our accomplishments since inception in 2006: Like many NFP orgs, we rely solely on donations to be able to provide assistance. It is because of the generosity of our donors that we can provide this assistance.
    More organizations that can help:

    If you appreciate the work that these organizations do, please donate if you can. A small amount, given by a number of individuals adds up!

  40. This was a great article. I agree that no one should be kept from the love of an animal, provided they return that love unconditionally. If my dream ever comes true, to open a pet food store in my small village…I already have a plan to keep a jar on the counter for “community funds.” That money will be for those who are unable to pay for medical care that their pet needs. As the store owner I would match whatever $ amount is in there. If there is no money in the jar then I will try to work something out to get the help they need.

  41. I am one of the ‘poor’ people that is in between a rock and hard place right now and need help.

    I used to work 2 jobs and sometimes three to support myself and critters. it wasn’t easy but I did it. In the past 6 months I lost my full time job I had for four years due to staff reductions resulting from lack of business. I was low on the seniority list…then Easter was my last day at my part time job that I have worked for 10 years, also due to the same issues.

    I aquired most of my animals when they were babies and I was in the middle of a 20 year marriage. Things change the critters are older and I’m now single still taking care of all of them but by myself.

    The problem I am facing as of this writing is my dog came up lame on Saturday. after scrouging, begging and barrowing 235 for X rays the vet tells me that she has a torn ACL, He does not take payments which he says will cost me $1750! I don’t qualify for credit care because I am not employed. I don’t have it, don’t know where or when I can get it? so what do I do? If anyone has any suggestions or referrals please email me at

    One of the vet techs at my local humane society suggested I set up a fundraiser on which I have, here is the link if any would like to visit

    The fund raising isn’t going so well at the moment so I’ve been on the phone and internet the past two days trying to find other resources. To keep hearing the same thing ‘gee we wish we could help you out more but we only do spay and neuter.
    One of the real disheartening things besides having to watch my dog limp around on 3 legs and whimper and am helpless to help her, is the many hours of equine, dog and cat rescue, adoptions,and placements I have volunteered and worked over the years. How many times when I was able did I donate; but now it’s my dogs turn to be helped and there isn’t too many organizations, clinics or vets that will, unless as all you need is a spay or neuter…what about the injured ones?

  42. Try the UAN. I am in the same situation. My puppy needs surgery and I can not afford the huge bill. I also get some help from a local pure bred & mix of a pure bred rescue. If your dog is a pure bred or even a mix of a pure bred some of the local rescues may help you. I didnt think any would and I got a decent amount. Example: if your dog is part golden retriver and you can tell he is, contact your local retriever rescues in your state. They may help you or even post your fundraiser webpage on their site. The group that helped me put a link on their page. You never know. the Pet Fund is on a 3 month waiting list. is no longer taking applicaitons. I am still waiting to hear from Angels 4 Animals and Help-A-Pet to see if they can help.

    Good Luck! I would seriosly look up rescues for the breed you have that is in your area, you never know if they will or will not help you !

    I also have a page on

  43. Dear All, First of all I enjoyed immensely reading all the comments on here and all the tips and suggestions but what happened to vets excepting payment plans. Mine has refused to except a payment plan at all and has informed me that my teacup poodle has to have a congenital birth defect correction of having her knee caps that are at the back of her knees at the small cost of $1,000.00 a leg and of course there will be at least $1,000.00 for more X-rays and medication and aftercare. Now like most of you if we are all honest are broke if not over broke and she is my service dog which I can’t live without. But you must ask yourself why do they need so much money these vets? Why are they money mad. I haven’t had an income now for three and a half months due to illness in my husbands department and he needing 24 hour care. but I am surviving just. but why can’t these rich vets start understanding that they are not only pricing themselves out of our pockets but if we boycott them prehaps we can help them price them self out of business. but would that be right either I ask due to the others putting up their prices as less vets become available. I have to ask is there anywhere we can go to limit the rising costs of vets out pricing us out of normal costs and just making themselves rich. I look forward to your responses. Thank you all.

  44. I had four cats, a family, in the past three years I have lost them to cancer, due to pesticide’s that were sprayed in my home, without my knowleg while I was away at work. I have SLE Lupus, there should have never been peticides used. Each one of my Babies have had some problems. I thought I was doing them good when I switched to Blue Spa cat food, only to find out that they had been recalled. I had to put to sleep my first Love which was the Mother and husband of the family. Angel the father was the firs, he was very ill, his daughter Mullie had had breast cancer, which she had removed, only to find out that it could come back, that was AFTER the surgory I found that out. 30 days to the day was when she passed away, Her mother and sister, when I came home were devistated. They morned for a long time. I was more than devestated, and angry that this could happen to my Babies, and no one could help me
    I have her daughter jezebel who is 18 and having renel problems too, but becuase she was morning so badly, I got her a kitten named Brieanna from my Vet’s office, so that she wouldn’t be lonely. I have not worked in 2 years, and am awaiting disability, and have gone through just about all of my money, but I feel it was the right thing to do for Jezebel, so that she would have a better quality of life with a friend at her side. She would have never gotten use to being alone, even though I have Brie, Jez is still looking for her Mother. I do without a lot of things, I had even done without my own Med’s in order to pay for my Babies good health, and I will continue to find a way to do so. I am buying only Cat food that is grain free now. It is very costly, but it is sappose to be better for them, and their kidney’s. I was buying Wellness Brand, I just read that it is made by Menu Foods. I am lost looking for other things. I LOVE MY BABIES, and i am pretty poor right now, I couldn’t imagine my life and Jezebel’s life without our new addition Brieanna. My family are angry, becuase I can’t afford them, But,I will find a way.

  45. Having Animals tocare for and to have to care for you, is not just for the wealthy.
    it can give you encouragment in life. That things are beautiful

  46. 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

  47. 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.

  48. 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?)

  49. 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..

  50. 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

  51. 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.

  52. 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..

  53. A skilled predator, the cat is known to hunt over 1,000 species for food. It can be trained to obey simple commands. Individual cats have also been known to learn on their own to manipulate simple mechanisms, such as doorknobs and toilet handles. Cats use a variety of vocalizations and types of body language for communication, including meowing, purring, hissing, growling, squeaking, chirping, clicking, and grunting. Cats may be the most popular pet in the world, with over 600 million in homes all over the world. They are also bred and shown as registered pedigree pets. This hobby is known as the “cat fancy.”

  54. 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 “”

  55. 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.

  56. 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

  57. 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

  58. 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.

  59. 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!!!!

  60. 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

  61. 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.

  62. 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.”

  63. 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.

  64. 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

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

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