Monday, February 16, 2009

Owners who genuinely can't afford a vet's fees

The vetnurse has a post about a dog who was probably dumped because the owner didn't take him to a vet in time and then got frightened to take him because by that time his tumour looked so dreadful (warning - graphic photos). 

There is help out there BUT:
  • You need to be realistic that charities probably won't be able to fund very expensive treatment and euthanasia to prevent more suffering may be the only option.
  • It may be quite difficult to locate a source of help — particularly for someone who is elderly or confused.

The PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals) operates in all of the UK and offers long-term help for owners on housing benefit or council tax benefit. There is quite a complicated registration procedure and it's designed to allow pet owners who know they would have problems paying for treatment to register for help before something happens. The PDSA uses a mix of its own clinics and help via private vets. They can be contacted by phoning 0800 731 2502.

The Blue Cross accepts a wider range of state benefits (or proof of very low income) and most of its help is provided via private vets, although it also has some clinics of its own in Grimsby and London.  The Blue Cross can be contacted by phoning 0300 123 9933.

The RSPCA accepts  means tested state benefits as proof of eligibility. It's more geared towards dealing with sudden emergency situations than the other two, although it's possible to register pets for long-term help where a clinic or hospital exists. Where help is provided at private vets it's generally expected that this will be a one-off to resolve an immediate welfare problem. All RSPCA branches are expected to provide at least the cost of a standard veterinary consult fee and either pain relief or euthanasia in an emergency situation where an owner is on benefits/pension as part of their Minimum Animal Welfare Standards. All of England and Wales is covered, but not Scotland or Ulster.

If your local RSPCA has a clinic or animal hospital this will be listed in Yellow Pages under "Animal Welfare". Unfortunately if the branch does not have a clinic and relies on providing help via private vets, it may not be easy to contact the person who is responsible for running the assistance scheme. They may have a number listed in Yellow Pages, but generally the best way to find the current number is to contact the National Control Centre on 0300 1234 999 and follow the voice menu prompts. This may defeat an elderly or confused person.

Most vets will be in day to day contact with welfare charities, and they will not mind being asked for advice on getting help, although they won't be happy to be expected to give a discount on their services — they have bills to pay at the end of the day too. If they do offer a discount or allow payment in instalments it is important that they are thanked for it. 

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