Friday, June 29, 2012

When Owners Can’t Afford Vet Care

Things at the OHS are almost never as simple as they appear. Among these is the OHS policy on owner surrender.  We write a lot about owners relinquishing their pets, particularly when the pet is sick or injured and requires veterinary care that the owner cannot afford, but we don’t always delve into why our policies are as they are.

With over 11,000 animals requiring our care every year, we certainly have no desire to add to our work.  We also don’t have the resources to pay for veterinary care whenever an owner asks us—and we are asked daily.  Our only solution to prevent animal suffering, do what we can afford, and at the same time hold an owner somewhat accountable for his or her pet, is to accept sick and injured animals as surrenders, help them as best we can, and, we hope, rehome them to a family that is willing and able to provide all of the care the animal needs.  Otherwise, what happens to the dog next time he needs veterinary care? What happens to the cat when she requires dental care?
We also provide a great deal of programming, information and advice about both planning ahead for a pet’s medical needs and for taking steps to limit the possibility of injury to a pet.  When an owner doesn’t plan ahead, and/or contributes to their pet’s injuries, the situation becomes even less simple.   I don’t think that our donors wish to support maintaining the animal in the home under many conditions, but rather would prefer we care for, and then rehome the animal.
Certainly we know the health and other benefits of having pet in our lives. Does that mean that everyone should have a pet? Does it mean that only people with money should have pets?  If a charity like the OHS had the funds to assist people in caring for their pets, should it be a gift or a loan? What about taking away money from homeless animals to help owned animals?  Would it be for emergencies only, or a lifetime of care?  What if the owner contributed to the injury by not protecting their pet?  Or what if the owner isn’t very responsible with the care of their pet in other ways?  How would all of this be assessed?
These issues are not easy or straightforward. What do you think?  Have your say here.

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