While the law regards companion animals as property, Paws in Need regards these animals instead as family members who do not qualify for human medical insurance. Pet insurance programs are available, but often even these programs cannot cover the total cost of necessary medical care and require families to pay up front before getting reimbursed.
As much as 80 % of families live paycheck to paycheck and rarely has funds available for emergency medical services (The Guardian, 2018). Unfortunately, unlike the human health field- who is required to provide care and bill later, veterinary services usually require families to pay for medical services up front before providing medical treatment. While laws differ by state, concerning the level of veterinary care a veterinarian must provide regardless of a client’s ability to pay most follow the AVMA guidelines:
“In emergencies, veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to provide essential services for animals when necessary to save life or relieve suffering, subsequent to client agreement (or until such agreement can be obtained when no client is present). Such emergency care may be limited to euthanasia to relieve suffering, or to stabilization of the patient for transport to another source of animal care.
Fewer veterinary clinics are able to accept payment plans. Payment plan services do exist , such as Care Credit and Scratchpay, however approval is based on credit score and often the families not likely to apply for these lines of credit, have limited or poor credit. Although pet insurance has become more available and less restrictive, the client is still required to pay for services up front and then submit paid invoices for reimbursement when covered. Thus there exists a need for a more stream-line and accessible source of funding for pets in need. While, free or low cost spay and neuter clinics as well as vaccination clinics are common, but these are largely the only free or low cost veterinary services available. Paws in Need seeks to bridge this gap to make companion animal medical care available to all who need it.
While Paws in Need aims at providing financial assistance for veterinary care for those who cannot afford it, it also functions as an education resource providing information about preventative care, financial resources, and low cost veterinary assistance to pet owners in Hampton Roads. The goal of the organization is not just to provide financial assistance, but to help each pet owner become more skilled at preventative care and more informed about available resources. The goal in educating one pet owner at a time about these resources is to make pet owners circumstances more sustainable, which will keep animals out of shelters and together with the people who need and love them. In addition, funding care for just 50 animals is the equivalent of emptying an average-size shelter, so even a fraction of the animals we assist remain out of shelters and saved from economic euthanasia.
Since 2016, through social media crowd sourcing, over $ 27000 has been raised to provide veterinary assistance to pets and their families in need. As a result over 300 (check number) of pets have been assisted or in many cases saved.
The social media group- Lost and Found Pets- Hampton Roads- has over 30 k members as of December 2018. This group has a large active following that has developed into not only reuniting lost pets, but education, rescue and shelter awareness and adoption as well as crowd sourcing for financial assistance. Up until now, financial assistance was limited to veterinary care through Acredale Hospital- Virginia Beach- whereby community members have to call or visit the veterinary hospital in person to donate funds. This limited the ease of donation as well as tied up Acredale’s Animal Hospital’s gracious but very busy staff
The purpose of Paws in Need will be not only to streamline donations, create more accessible donation portals but broaden the reach of veterinary care to other hospitals and areas of Hampton Road’s and allow access to more specialized treatment when needed. In addition, since the medical fund continues to grow in size and need, rules and guidelines need to be put in place to ensure both state and federal legal regulations are met, improve the efficiency and viability of the fund as well as provide transparency to the general public when donating
Gina Highfield, President and co founder of Paws in Need, with one of her many fundraisers.
All proceeds go directly to helping pets in Hampton Roads. Thank you for your generous donation.
Founder, Foster Fail x 5, Runs Lost and Found Pets - Hampton Roads
Legal Advisor, Fund Secretary, runs Rooster to the Rescue, PitBull Coalition Advocate.
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