When Nicole met Hershey, it was love at first sight.
She and her boyfriend had gone to a friend’s house where there was a litter of pitbull mix puppies. Hershey was light brown with white markings.
“My boyfriend was shaking his head ‘no no no,’ and they just put this puppy in my arms. I was like ‘I can’t let her go.’”
That was five years ago, and now Hershey is a fixture in their lives. While Hershey lazes on the couch on a rainy day, Nicole recounts the joy she has experienced, sharing her life with Hershey and a 10-year-old gray tiger-striped cat, Rambo.
“They love each other,” says Nicole.
Making Ends Meet
Nicole and her boyfriend live in Cleveland. He works as a landscaper, and she stretches her Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as far as she can. But as is the case for many low-income pet parents, the cost of living has risen faster than the money flowing in. As the cost of pet food and vet care has risen, they have struggled.
“It’s just a little rough right now,” says Nicole.
That’s exactly why One Health Organization established the Voucher-based Veterinary Care program.
When Nicole took Hershey to Maple Heights Animal Clinic, the receptionist told her about Vouchers that One Health Organization delivers to low-income pet parents. The receptionist recommended that Nicole apply because the clinic accepts Vouchers. “That’s when I started looking into it and signed up for it,” says Nicole.
"It’s been a lifesaver."
Care for Hershey and Rambo
Nicole has used Vouchers — which cover up to $250 of veterinary care — to pay for Hershey’s flea and tick preventatives and to update her shots.
Nicole also used Vouchers to pay for an emergency visit when Rambo was losing fur from his tail because of an allergic reaction. “We hadn’t experienced that before, but we took him in right away and got that figured out,” she says. “They gave us medicine and everything.”
Hershey experiences a lot of anxiety over vet visits and is tricky to handle, so she often has appointments at Premiere Spay and Neuter, which has been able to manage her fearfulness.
Nicole keeps the Vouchers around in case another emergency arises. It’s comforting to know that veterinary care will be accessible and affordable if they need it.
More than 112,000 pet parents in Northeast Ohio live on incomes that make it difficult to cover veterinary bills. That’s where Vouchers come in. Once eligibility is determined, a household receives a Veterinary Care Voucher Debit Card worth $250 (this changed from paper Vouchers in April 2023). Each eligible household can receive up to $250 during a one-year cycle, as long as they still meet the income requirements.
Dog and cat owners in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, or Summit counties that have an income at or below 200% of the current federal poverty guidelines are eligible for the program.
Voucher Cards help cover annual wellness visits, disease tests, annual vaccinations, sick care, and end-of-life care. Now, effective April 2023, they can help cover costs associated with spay/neuter procedures.
“A Big Help”
When Nicole first learned about the Voucher-based Veterinary Care program, it almost sounded too good to be true. “I told one of my friends about it, and they thought it was a scam,” she says. “I told her it’s not; you should look into it.”
She expresses gratitude for the donors who understand how important our connections are with our pets. “It’s such a big help,” says Nicole, about the Voucher program. “If people need it, they should apply. And people should definitely be donating.”