In our line of work, we often meet pet parents encountering financial difficulties who find it challenging to cover veterinary expenses. It’s a heart‑wrenching situation when people are making choices between paying for living expenses and covering a necessary treatment for a pet. We even know pet parents who would rather be homeless than live without their beloved pets.
If this is your situation, you are not alone.
It appears that more people are raising money online to cover expenses for human and animal care. Maybe you’ve thought about raising funds for yourself. But you’re not sure your family and friends will understand if you ask them for assistance.
Sometimes people need a little help to understand why it’s important to you, and why preventive care can help save money in the long run.
There are several things you can do to find assistance with veterinary bills, including talking to your veterinarian about assistance, applying for Veterinary Care Vouchers (if you live in Northeast Ohio), or online fundraising, also called crowdfunding.
First of all, you’re right to prioritize your pet’s health. You’re not putting them above your own needs. People and pets both need quality health care.
We love our pets. They are part of our families, and living with pets has proven benefits to our mental and physical health.
We understand why you want to stay in your home with your pet, but that has become more difficult for some people, especially with the economic struggles related to the COVID‑19 pandemic.
We believe access to veterinary care is a social justice issue, and that no one should have to give up their pet for financial reasons.
Pros: The primary benefit of raising funds online is harnessing the power of the online community for good. Sometimes, even people you know well don’t understand your struggle, and a well‑organized campaign can help you make the case for assistance.
Many people love animals and understand the bonds that people have with animals. Even though your own network is the most reliable source for help, strangers sometimes chip in too.
Cons: Sometimes it’s easier to crowdfund in response to an emergency, like after an accident or an attack. But your needs might be more basic and less attention‑grabbing, such as getting vaccinations and parasite control.
Another downside: There are an awful lot of crowdfunding campaigns out there, and it can be overwhelming for potential donors. If you start to scroll around on GoFundMe or other sites, your heart will break.
That means you need to be specific and learn how to target your existing community (especially online and on social media) to get noticed in a crowded field.
Online fundraising is quite popular these days, and some people are successful at raising funds for emergencies, including veterinary care. GoFundMe is one of the most popular sites, and Waggle.org is a site dedicated to pet fundraisers. These are known as “crowdfunding” sites. The three basic steps you take on crowdfunding sites are as follows:
GoFundMe is a charitable organization and does not take a cut of your funds. They do, however, deduct “transaction fees” from donations: 1.9% + $.30 per donation. When people are donating, they will be asked if they want to add an “optional tip” for the organization to help support its efforts.
The organization also provides a “donor protection guarantee,” which helps protect against fraud and abuse of the system. They even refund donations if they are determined to be misused.
If you don’t know how to use technology, ask someone to help get you started. Usually, young people are pretty good at it. You can help by writing down your story so that they can enter that information into the computer or smartphone. If you have trouble writing, someone can take a video of you telling your story. People love to watch short videos that make them feel something.
We’ve noticed that people are more successful at fundraising when they are specific about the needs and costs of the needed veterinary care.
You need to share your story in a way that your friends and family will understand. Are you in danger of losing your housing because your landlord doesn’t allow pets? Does your pet have an ongoing health condition that requires long‑term treatment, like diabetes? Or are you struggling for different reasons and can’t afford the preventive care that is so important, like parasite control?
In case you need proof about the benefits of owning a pet, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says, “Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners.”
If you’re a pet parent, you probably already know that. But did you know the CDC also says providing regular veterinary care is important for keeping your pet and family healthy?
GoFundMe provides tips on how to create a successful fundraiser.
Some of those tips include the following:
Crowdfunding campaigns are not the only way people are getting help with veterinary care expenses. Here in Northeast Ohio, One Health Organization has helped over a thousand households cover veterinary expenses with Veterinary Care Vouchers, a needs‑based program.
Eligible applicants need to have an income at or below 200% of the current federal poverty guidelines. They use the Vouchers in a network of veterinarians that accept them. Vouchers have helped people like Lisa, who had health problems and is raising her two sons after leaving an abusive relationship.
We were touched by Lisa’s story, and we know that others were too.
If you are on the waiting list for Vouchers from One Health Organization, we are looking for photos and details about your situation. We know that sharing stories like this opens hearts and encourages people to provide essential support for the mission of providing help for low‑income pet parents.