Rising vet bills cause concern

Okotoks: Rescue group seeks help with surgery costs

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 10:38 am

Chaya recuperates after her surgery. Okotoks Pound Rescue footed the $4,000 bill and are now asking for the public's help to recuperate the money.
Chaya recuperates after her surgery. Okotoks Pound Rescue footed the $4,000 bill and are now asking for the public's help to recuperate the money.
Photo supplied

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It was a normal day for MaryAnn Wilson when her 10 year old Pomeranian Chihuahua cross, Chaya, went down the steps to head out into the backyard You need another paragraph here between this sentence and the quote. What happened to turn it from normal to bad? What were the stakes? .

“She had gone down those stairs 100 times,” Wilson said. “She hit the fourth step, she yelped and by the time I got there my friend was holding her and her leg was hanging there.”

Chaya had tripped and broken a bone in her leg as well as popped her shoulder out of place. Wilson rushed her beloved pup to the nearest veterinarian’s office in Airdrie, where they ran tests and x-rays on Chaya. They presented Wilson with four options – surgery, amputation, surrender her to a rescue group or put her down.

They also presented her with a bill for $800 to cover the tests that had been run and informed her they would not be proceeding until the bill was paid. The only viable option that Wilson saw for her dog was proper corrective surgery, which would cost another $4,000. That amount of money is substantial for anyone, but for Wilson, who has been on disability since 2001, it was simply out of reach.

“I started to cry because I thought ‘how am I going to possibly come up with that and how do I help her?’” Wilson said. “She’s my baby girl. She sleeps with me, she eats with me. I don’t have family. I was by myself and she was pretty much all I had. When days were good she was there, when days weren’t so good she was there.”

Wilson desperately began contacting animal rescue organizations for help with the bill, but was repeatedly turned away. Many organizations explained that they just didn’t have the funds and don’t offer assistance in those situations.

But, Okotoks Pound Rescue was willing to help.

“It is kind of on a case-to-case basis and this woman was desperate,” said Gabriele Barrie, the organization’s president. “She had no one who could help her, she could not borrow the money from a bank, she could not pay in installments. She loved her dog so much, that was so obvious and because it was a situation where this dog could be healthy and happy again, we decided to help.”

Pound Rescue funded the surgery and Chaya is now on the mend. But the rescue organization isn’t used to forking out large sums of money and is now asking the public to donate to help recuperate the costs.

“It is a huge amount of money, we don’t get that many donations and what we do we like to keep for our dogs incase something happens to one of them,” Barrie said.

Although they do not commonly assist with vet bills, Barrie said they get requests for it all of the time.

Barrie said with improvements in health technology, it means better treatment for our pets, but also more cost and pet owners need to be prepared for those situations.

“You have to put money aside and save up incase something happens,” she said. “We do recommend pet insurance and really chose their vet carefully. There are many vets who are inclined to help, if people really can’t afford it.”

Veterinarians and animal health care providers say they work with patients to keep costs down and provide options for pet owners.

PJ Thomson is an animal health technician at Foothills Animal Hospital and she says they do offer payment plans for large bills in emergency situations, but they too recommend people look at getting pet insurance to help them out in those situations.

“Everything has a cost and I think because we don’t pay for our own personal health care, we don’t realize,” Thomson said. “Most of what we do, we go to the doctor and it just gets covered. You don’t pay an exam fee, you don’t pay for blood work, so people don’t know what the cost for medicine is.”

While pets can be costly, Thomson said if you don’t want to get insurance, you should still plan for the worst so you won’t be put in a difficult situation if something does go wrong.

“We recommend you start a savings account for your pet and that $40 bucks you would be spending on insurance just put it in a bank account instead,” she said. If you’re low income you need to work your pets into your budget. If you’re going to have pets you need a method to take care of them.”

Wilson said she is looking at getting pet insurance now, but preexisting conditions aren’t covered. For now, she’s just glad to have Chaya back in her arms.

“What a pet does for you is unconditional, Wilson said. “The way they make you feel, the love that they give you is unconditional. I thank God and Pound Rescue with everything I have for coming and helping.”

For more information on how to help contribute to Chaya’s surgery fund, please visit www.poundrescue.com


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