A recent report from San Diego’s public television station KPBS highlighted some sobering statistics about how many people in our county, as well as nationwide, are struggling financially. The poverty rate here in San Diego County is higher today than it was during the great recession, rising from 12.3% to 14.5%–with 450,000 people currently living below the federal poverty line ($12,082 per individual annually). U.S. census data shows that 13.5% of Americans live below the poverty threshold nationwide.
FACE provides financial assistance to qualified families to help them pay for all or part of their pets’ emergency and critical care veterinary services. According to our 2016 statistics, 50% of our grantees had an annual income of $26,000 or less. Here in San Diego County, where the cost of living is quite high, $26,000 is less than the living wage for one person.
What does all this mean for pet owners facing economic hard times? While the basic cost of pet ownership ranges from around $350-$550 per year (with roughly $1,000 of expenses during the first year of ownership), a veterinary emergency could lead to thousands of dollars of unexpected expenses. What happens when a pet owner simply can’t afford treatment? Sadly, economic euthanasia is often the only alternative. While it’s hard to find official statistics on economic euthanasia rates, animal welfare and veterinary experts estimate that between 10% and 12% of all pet euthanasia occurs for economic reasons.
The pets of low income families face many hardships, even if they never experience a veterinary emergency. Low income pet owners in rural areas can find themselves miles away from the nearest pet store or veterinarian. In urban areas with high poverty rates, veterinary services are also scarce, and pet owners often face transportation issues.
Helping pets in low income households is truly a community effort. Besides non-profits that provide financial assistance for veterinary care, like FACE, there are other ways communities have shown compassion for pets in need. Many veterinary schools offer free clinics, animal welfare organizations bring mobile, low-cost spay/neuter services to underserved areas, food pantries are expanding to include pet food and supplies, and specialized programs exist for the pets of veterans, the homeless, and the elderly.
Pets provide love, comfort, companionship, and even health benefits to their owners, regardless of income. That’s why it’s so important to do all we can to ensure that all pets remain healthy and happy members of their families. Here is a comprehensive list of organizations providing financial assistance to pet owners in the U.S.