Financial Assistance for Pet & Guardian Healthcare Services
Image Source: Unsplash
By Devin Morrissey
As many as 25% of homeless individuals in the U.S. have a pet, but it can sometimes be difficult for those struggling with finances or homelessness to pay for the care their dog or cat needs.
That has never been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pet banks still need food, people will still get sick, and animals will need care, too. Now, more than ever, it is important to reach out a helping hand as much as possible. If you’ve ever been concerned about the general health of the homeless with pets, now is the time to make a difference.
So, what can you do? If you cannot provide financial assistance yourself or donate to a cause that can, there are still resources in place to can help the homeless and their pets you can talk to. Many places are always looking for volunteers, so if this is something on your heart, be sure to do your research!
In the meantime, let’s look at why homeless pets tend to have greater health risks, and what resources are available to help them.
Potential Health Risks for Homeless Pets
There are seemingly constant health risks for both homeless individuals and their pets when they have to live without a roof over their heads. You’re also likely to find that many homeless people put their pet’s needs above their own. But, if they don’t have the right resources, it is often a futile effort. Some of the most common health risks for pets in the street include:
- Low body weight
- Poor nutrition
- Skin sores
- Fleas/other skin irritants
The risks can also change seasonally. In the winter, for example, dogs and cats are at a greater risk. The pads of their feet can become frostbitten, or the salt and chemicals used to clear streets and sidewalks can cause damage. Rock salt and other ice-melters are also often poisonous to dogs.
Pets of the homeless have different health issues year-round, so it’s important for those wanting to help to be vigilant in what they can do. Thankfully, various resources provide assistance to those pets (and their owners) as soon as possible. Let’s check out a few of those options.
What Resources Are Available?
When it comes to getting pets the healthcare services they need and deserve, one of the best places to start is to look at national resources. Some of the most practical national resources for homeless pets include:
- The Humane Society
- Friends & Vets Helping Pets
- The RedRover Relief Program
- Oscar’s Cause
- Brown Dog Foundation
- And of course Feeding Pets of the Homeless if you are homeless
Many of these resources are designed to help homeless pet owners with veterinary bills or to ensure their pet has the care it needs. There are usually local options if you live in a smaller area, too. Consider volunteering for a local pet shelter or veterinary office if you want to get out into the community and make a difference. Another option, even for those struggling financially, is to consider pet insurance if their animal has a pre-existing condition. While it does require a monthly payment, it’s often much less than a vet bill.
If you’re interested in helping out in any way, start by contacting any of the resources listed above to see how you can donate or volunteer. If you’re in need of assistance for your pet or know someone who is, those resources can also be helpful in getting your dog or cat the medical attention they need.
The Physical and Mental Health of the Homeless
Many people, whether they are homeless or not, rely on their pets to help with underlying mental health issues. In fact, 74% of pet owners believe their mental health improved after getting a pet of their own. As important as it is to take care of your dog, cat, or any other pet, you cannot do that properly if you are not taking care of your own physical and mental health. Unfortunately, people without a steady income do not always feel they can get the healthcare services they need.
Struggling financially should never be a reason not to get health treatment for anyone. Homeless and low-income individuals can look into Medicaid or options like Medicare, if you are 65+, in order to pay for certain mental health services, including:
- Inpatient therapy
- Some medications
- Diagnostic lab testing
- Counseling appointments
You can also play an important role in helping the homeless with mental health conditions. Recently, a San Francisco-created app called Concrn debuted. The app allows people to contact mental health professionals to assist the homeless. Additionally, shelter-based clinics based all over the country help with basic medical needs. Other healthcare options for the homeless and financially-strained include:
- Rescue missions
- Mobile healthcare services
- Community health centers
- College and university health centers
Thankfully, no matter someone’s financial situation, resources available are available for those who need them. Your attention and activity in aiding the homeless and their pets will help them get the care they need and deserve.