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“Nobody should have to choose between paying rent and for veterinary care,” says pet guardian in new research from Vancouver Humane Society

VANCOUVER, Oct 26, 2021 – People living on a low income have strong bonds with their pets. However, structural barriers – like a lack of animal-friendly transportation and financial affordability – make it difficult for these loving guardians to access needed veterinary care. The existing barriers have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, when animal hospitals had to cancel or limit appointments and guardians were unable to accompany their pets into the clinic.

new journal article published by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) and Dalhousie University Professor Haorui Wu offers unique insight into the barriers faced by low-income people accessing veterinary care in 2020. The article details the lived experiences and recommendations of twelve animal guardians who accessed financial support for urgent veterinary services.

“I still have the fear if you can’t pay for the bill, they may ask you to surrender the animal,” explained one animal guardian living on a low income. “I didn’t want to surrender the animal. I can feed her. She’s loved. She’s not abused.” When a veterinarian or animal shelter requires a low-income person to surrender their pet to get access to veterinary care, a serious ethical dilemma exists as the pet is then rehomed into a wealthier family.

Examining and addressing barriers to veterinary care is a key part of creating a more equitable society. Companion animals are an essential part of their guardians’ lives now more than ever – with evidence suggesting that animals positively impact how people react, cope, and recover from disaster situations.

“Nobody should have to choose between paying rent and for veterinary care,” another participant said. “I find that a really scary thought.”

The article lays out suggestions to help low-income animal guardians access care, such as offering payment plans and training staff to offer trauma-informed services – the same approach used by social services workers who already interact with underserved communities daily. Creating an environment where all guardians can access veterinary care can reduce their stress, help animals get the urgent care they need, and encourage low-income individuals to bring their pets in for preventative care before their health is in crisis. It can also remove the need for financially motivated euthanasia, which needlessly takes animal lives and takes a severe mental toll on veterinarians and technicians.

The research process was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). It can be found on the VHS website.

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For further information: Amy Morris: 604-416-2901, amy@vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca

Related links:

https://vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca/posts/new-research-veterinary-care-covid-19

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Vancouver Humane Society program helps to prevent homelessness for women and pets

VANCOUVER, July 22, 2021 – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is partnering with women’s support agencies to break down housing barriers for women with pets through the unique Helping Women and Pets in Crisis program.

“It is difficult finding places that allow pets,” says Mariam, a client of the program whose name has been changed for privacy, “Especially with non-refundable pet deposits which take away the limited income I have per month.” Mariam’s family is familiar with this struggle; her sister has already given up a cat “because she couldn’t afford anywhere that would allow a pet to live with her.”

Currently, the lack of pet-friendly housing has a huge impact on people experiencing homelessness and survivors of domestic violence. About one in ten people experiencing homelessness have pets, and many affirm that they would never enter a shelter if they could not bring their pet with them. Pets and their guardians form strong bonds that aid each other’s mental wellbeing; living with a pet has been proven to have medical, emotional, and mental health benefits.

Likewise, many women experiencing domestic abuse have stayed in an abusive relationship longer than they felt comfortable out of concern for their pets. This is a serious welfare concern for women as well as animals, since abusers will often threaten or harm their victim’s animal as a form of intimidation and control.

An individual with a low income can also face challenges when their pet has a medical crisis. “The vet bills are the toughest, you never know if they’re going to get sick or not. How are you going to pay your other bills when the vet bills are so high?” says Mariam.

When Mariam’s cat got sick, she says, “We spent our rent money to get him medicine in the hospital to prevent him from suffering. I accepted that I would have to go without some basic needs and put off rent for a couple of months to catch up financially.”

The Helping Women and Pets in Crisis program covered part of Mariam’s urgent veterinary costs so that she did not need to shoulder the financial burden alone. “That took away the worry about being able to afford the next couple of months, knowing we won’t have to struggle for a while.”

The program recently received a generous grant of $10,200 from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. It is also funded in part by a $9,000 grant from North Shore Community Foundation and a $30,000 grant from PetSmart Charities® of Canada. “Helping vulnerable pet parents and their pets stay healthy and together is something we are committed to,” said Dani LaGiglia, community grants manager at PetSmart Charities of Canada. “With this funding, we hope more women will not have to make a choice between their safety and that of a beloved pet.”

VHS is hoping to grow this project beyond the grant funds and is seeking compassionate donors to support this work. If you would like to contribute to this valuable program, or if you are a woman in crisis seeking support for yourself and your pet, you can learn more on the Vancouver Humane Society website.

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For further information: Contact Amy Morris: 604-416-2901

RELATED LINKS

https://vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca/helping-women-and-pets-in-crisis/ https://vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca/

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VHS is helping women and pets in crisis

Accessing housing when you have a pet is difficult. Accessing housing when you are a single woman with a pet and a limited income is nearly impossible. VHS’s Helping Women and Pets in Crisis program aims to change that. VHS is working in partnership with shelters and transition houses to break down housing barriers for women with pets and to assist with necessary veterinary costs. Partnerships with agencies like North Shore Crisis Services (NSCS) will ensure these supports are available to women who are fleeing domestic violence and in otherwise vulnerable situations.

Currently, individuals facing a period of low or no income can face major barriers accessing veterinary care. Many are forced to choose between treating their beloved pet’s medical emergency and affording their own necessities. This was the case for Mariam, who reached out to VHS after her cat Odin became ill. “We spent our rent money to get him medicine in the hospital to prevent him from suffering. I accepted that I would have to go without some basic needs and put off rent for a couple of months to catch up financially.”

Thanks to you, the Helping Women and Pets in Crisis program covered part of Mariam’s urgent veterinary costs so that she could access care for Odin and maintain her family’s housing. You can learn more or donate to this valuable program here.