Let’s face it, animal care can be expensive. Extensive medical care for your pet can include a $2000 blood transfusion, $15,000 surgery, or even $25,000 for radiation treatment. While many veterinary clinics have reduced-cost treatment available and some have financial aid programs in place to help buttress the cost of medical care, you may find yourself asking: “What do I do if I can’t afford a vet?”
What do I do if I can’t afford a vet?
There are ways to help if you can’t afford a vet.
1. Ask for payment plans
If you can’t afford the vet bill, ask if they will work with you. Most vets will work with you as long as you’re not being irresponsible and your pet is in need of care. If you can’t afford to pay for the entire procedure upfront, ask about payment plans.
2. Find free or low-cost clinics
There are also non-profit organizations that offer low-cost veterinary services. Look online to find one in your area. And always make sure that you’re dealing with a veterinarian who’s licensed and accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
To find free and low-cost veterinary care near you, try these places:
- Your local animal shelter or pet rescue group
- Your veterinarian’s office may offer discounted prices for those who cannot afford them
- Ask your neighbors if they know of any veterinarians who offer discounts to financially challenged people
- Check online for coupons and deals offered by animal hospitals in your area
3. Launch a crowdfunding campaign
If you’re struggling to afford a vet, or if you just want to help others who are dealing with this same issue, be sure to check out crowdfunding for your pet. There are a few different sites that let you post your story and request money from friends and strangers alike. They also provide tips for how to raise the money you need.
Sites like GoFundMe and GiveForward can be a great place to start. These sites allow users to set up a fundraising campaign to secure money specifically for pet care.
Crowdfunding campaigns have helped pay off vet bills, provide medical care for pets and even help with pet food costs. There’s an added bonus that strangers may come forward with assistance if they feel connected to your cause. You may find yourself receiving funds from people you’ve never met, who just want to help you and your pet.
4. Host a group sales
Maybe you’ve got the neighborhood covered when it comes to selling knickknacks and decor. Invite over your neighbors and throw a garage sale together to make enough money for Fido’s treatment.
5. Apply for grants
Be sure to check out scholarships, grants and other financial aid options for pet owners in need of veterinary care. While most of these funding opportunities are only available in certain countries, it’s worth checking out what is available where you live before giving up hope completely.
6. Get a credit line
Help is available in the form of credit lines. These loans can be used to cover vet bills, as well as any other expenses related to your pet, such as food or grooming. You can also use the funds for routine health care costs such as vaccinations, heartworm prevention, flea and tick control. If your pet is injured or ill and needs immediate medical attention, a credit line can be a lifesaver.
The minimum credit line varies from company to company, but they all require some sort of security deposit and proof that you can make payments on time.
It is always risky to borrow money, but in this case, it is far better than putting your pet down because you can’t pay for the treatment. It is better to put your pet on a credit card and make small payments each month until the bill is paid off. This might take a while but it beats losing your pet.
7. Ask around
If none of these options are available to you, ask around. Maybe your friends or family can help with the bills.
Can the vet keep my dog if I can’t pay?
A veterinary hospital, like any other business, has to make money to stay in business. The costs of running a veterinary hospital are high, and so are the costs of the equipment and medicines that go into providing care for your pet. A veterinary hospital can’t afford to provide free services.
If you don’t have money to pay for your pet’s care, you have options. Many veterinary clinics offer payment plans; others may set up a payment schedule that you can handle. Be aware that some veterinary hospitals will keep your pet until you pay for the services already rendered. It’s also possible that if you don’t pay after a certain time period, the veterinarian will turn your pet over to the local animal shelter.
It is best to discuss your financial situation with the veterinarian prior to treatment. Be sure to give the veterinarian proof of your inability to pay, such as a bankruptcy notice, eviction notice, or a letter from a local government agency stating that you are receiving public assistance.
If you do not pay for services rendered by the veterinarian, the professional can report this fact to a credit reporting agency and/or charge it off as bad debt. If the veterinarian chooses not to report this fact, other medical providers who are familiar with your case may disclose it. The information may also be disclosed if you apply for credit and state that you owe unpaid medical bills. Credit reporting agencies usually do not provide details about debts or bill collectors; however, they will report unpaid medical bills without identifying the specific provider of service.
To make sure your pet stays healthy, avoid waiting until an emergency arises to find out where you can get affordable care or what resources are available to assist you in meeting your pet’s health needs. It’s better to ask ahead of time and take advantage of preventative measures such as annual examinations and booster shots.
What is considered abandonment of a pet?
Animal abandonment can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony offense in each state. The definition of animal abandonment is defined by each state.
Generally speaking, animal abandonment is considered a misdemeanor offense. This means there is no prison time but the defendant may have to pay fines, restitution, and/or court costs. Felony charges are much more serious and could lead to prison time depending on the state. In states where animal abandonment is a felony, it is treated as a separate crime from neglect or abuse.
There are many things that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a defendant can be convicted of animal abandonment.
The legal definition of abandonment differs from state to state, but the ALDF notes that most statutes define abandonment as failing to fulfill one’s duties as an owner by providing proper food, water, shelter and/or veterinary care to an animal under one’s care. When a person abandons his or her pet, he or she is essentially giving up all rights to the animal. If someone finds the abandoned pet and takes him or her in, the new owner may be able to sue the original owner for damages. Abandoning your pet could also lead to criminal charges such as animal cruelty.