Programs offer assistance for low-income pet owners

Story by Lindsay Alfermann.

COLUMBIA — Low wages negatively affect more than just workers — pets can experience hardship, too.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that 7.6 million animals enter shelters across the U.S. every year, often because owners are unable to provide for them.

For individuals who struggle to pay for food and shelter, affording the bare necessities for their animals can be a challenge.

“Most people know the costs of annual shots, routine visits to the vet, and supplies like dishes, food and collars, but they need Central Missouri Humane Society assistance with those things too,” Assistant Director Michelle Casey said.

“We have a food bank program that we offer on Mondays and Saturdays where anyone who qualifies can come in if something comes up in life to where they need help feeding their animal,” she said.

Anyone looking to save money on pet supplies can access coupons on local pet store websites as well.

Director Michelle Casey, holds Cassius at the Central Missouri Humane Society Tuesday, July 14, 2015. Cassius had surgery last week for

Director Michelle Casey, holds Cassius on Tuesday at the Central Missouri Humane Society. Cassius had surgery last week for “Cherry Eye”, an entropion condition affecting his eye tissue. The humane society provides affordable programs for low-income pet owners. LINDSAY ALFERMANN/Missourian

Casey said the most expensive factor of pet ownership is the unpredictable future.

“(Owners) don’t think about paying for dental services like teeth extractions, hip surgeries or services to aid in their pet’s behavioral issues,” she said.

For these reasons, the Central Missouri Humane Society implements its low-income services program.

“To qualify for our low-income services, clients have to present proof from a government program like food stamps, Medicaid or Social Security,” Casey said. “We try to offer as many resources as we can to keep them with their animals. That’s the point; we want people to stay with their animals.”

The program provides reduced price services such as spaying and neutering, nail clipping, microchipping and vaccinations. “We have an amazing behaviorist that will even go out to houses for no charge and work with animals so that they can learn to cope with their conditions,” Casey said.

Second Chance, another local shelter, focuses on finding temporary and permanent homes for shelter animals.

In addition, the group raises money for the Hodges TLC Fund, “a fund specifically for animals who deserve a second chance, but are in need of additional support due to injury or acute illness” according to their website.

Similarly, Noah’s Ark Animal Hospital, located on North Fairview Road in Columbia, makes efforts to accommodate for its clients’ needs as well.

“We raise funds for those clients who have difficulty affording our services, so that it’s unlikely to be rejected or denied because of their financial situations, especially in cases of emergency,” said Greg Chapman, a veterinarian at Noah’s Ark.

A collection of pet food stored at the Central Missouri Humane Society Tuesday, July 14, 2015. The food is available to low-income pet owners.

A collection of pet food is stored Tuesday at the Central Missouri Humane Society. The food is available to low-income pet owners. LINDSAY ALFERMANN/Missourian

Events often are held around the community that provide discount services, such as $5 nail clipping events that occur on most Saturdays at Lizzi and Rocco’s Natural Pet Market.

Casey said she hopes that the low-cost services enable pet owners to better care for their animals.

“If for any reason an owner could not find a way to support their pet and must give the animal up, appropriate steps should be taken to ensure the pet’s well-being,” she said.

Before making any decisions, pet owners are urged to contact a local shelter and speak to a professional.

“Some issues can be resolved through counseling, but if not, arrangements can be made to move the animal into a temporary home,” Casey said. “The worst possible scenario is when animals are left in isolation to fend for themselves and often do not survive.”

Five mixed Doberman puppies were abandoned in the heat at a local park, according to the Columbia Missourian. The puppies were brought into the Central Missouri Humane Society. Although one puppy did not survive, four are now under care and will be put up for adoption when they fully recover. The Humane Society’s website also posted information about the puppies.

“We’ve made huge leaps and strides in the nature of being pet owners,” Casey said. “But we still have a lot of work to do, which is why community outreach and humane education are two of my big goals.”

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