Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Great Deed Indeed!

When money is tight, families face tough choices.
“People every day are having to choose whether to feed themselves or feed their pet,” says Oakville resident Kim Ford, who this year started a pet food bank called Project Maddie.
“I’d been thinking about it for years really, but I always thought it would be one of those things where you win the lottery to make it happen,” says Ford. A 10-year volunteer at the Oakville & Milton Humane Society, she regularly sees owners part with pets they can no longer afford, especially during the last year’s recession.
Turns out, she just needed the will to organize, and get word out through a new blog, projectmaddie.blogspot.com. Area merchants donate food at, or near, expiry dates and it’s made available to pet owners who can’t make ends meet. Ford has applied for charitable status and hopes to issue tax receipts in a few months.
Medical expenses, though, require money and the Companion Animals Wellness Foundation helps address that. The registered charity was started in 2006 to help low-income owners cover unforeseen vet costs — it’s run through Toronto’s Veterinary Emergency Clinic.
Justin Hart is one of those pet owners. His year-old cat, Captain, was accidentally hit at home by a falling box that broke its leg. The 24-year-old, living on disability assistance, had no money for emergency vet treatment.
His mother found the CAWF online. One phone call to qualify, and Captain’s expenses were covered. “I don’t know what I would have done otherwise,” says Hart, of Toronto.
A pet that’s been hit by a vehicle can require up to $10,000 in diagnostics, surgeries and medications says Natasha Sapra, executive director of the Veterinary Emergency Clinic.
“There is a great need, with not a lot of money behind it,” she says of the fund organizers had built to just half the hoped-for $150,000 before taking cases on.
“There is only so much we can do, because at the end of the day finances are needed to keep the door open,” she says. They’re still looking for corporate sponsorship.
And the question of money opens the debate about whether people should own pets if they can’t cover their bills.
The answer to that, says Sapra, is simple. “They (people in need) rely on their animals more than anybody.
“Pets aren’t making those decisions,” she adds, “so if we can help them, we want to. We can’t help them all, certainly not now. But maybe one day.”
Rescue groups who take abandoned or seized pets pay for the animals’ medical needs and use networks big and small to foster — and ultimately place — those pets in homes.
K9 Rescue Me, created by Toronto resident Jennifer Ego, is an umbrella organization for 30 small rescue groups. They can guide donations through K9, and Ego holds the money in trust to be drawn as needed.
“We have a good relationship with most of the shelters,” Ego says. “If they have an animal they feel they cannot place, they’ll often ask one of the rescue groups to help them with it.
“There’s never an end and never enough money,” she adds.
As a volunteer, Ego co-ordinates fundraising initiatives. The largest is a walkathon linked to the annual Woofstock dog festival, running June 12-13. Last year they raised $100,000 and are hoping to top that for this year’s seventh annual event.
Rescue pets can have expensive medical needs and may require rehab. That’s when she’s contacted, says Tania Costa, owner of Canine Wellness Centre physiotherapy clinic, in East York.
“Usually it’s (somebody’s) animal and it gets into some sort of accident and they don’t want it or they can’t care for it,” Costa says.
After vet bills are paid by rescue organizations, there’s nothing left for rehabilitation expenses. So Costa created Rehab for Rescues to help pay those costs and keeps the proceeds from her small, private fundraisers under Ego’s K9 umbrella.
Costa has helped paralyzed cats and dogs walk again and says “they all get adopted out to great homes.”

*Taken from the Toronto Star, and written by Barbara Turnbull

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