This little kitty was slowly fading away and the family thought they might have to put her down. Turns out Bruno had swallowed some thread and plastic and her bowels were obstructed. She was rushed into emergency surgery and is now thriving!
By BEVERLY STODDART, InDepthNH.org
Dover: If you own a dog or a cat and have faced the dire problem of not having the money for veterinary care, New Hampshire Pet Aid has a solution. Serving Strafford and Rockingham Counties, the non-profit organization offers assistance of up to $500 to fund urgent cases with a favorable outlook for recovery.
Like minds came together with Diane Schaefer and Daniel Kelleher, DVM from Broadview Animal Hospital a Dover a veterinarian with a similar idea, who reached out to Patty Cohen. They contacted Goodwork (a nonprofit incubator in Portsmouth) for help in starting a nonprofit. Their idea of how to make this happen drew from Womenaid of Greater Portsmouth whose mission is “short-term financial assistance to neighbors in need when they have nowhere else to turn.”
Patty Cohen explained. “It occurred to me that there could be pet aid that operates similarly to Womenaid. It would be for people in financial need, who were confronting an emergency situation with their dog or cat to help cover veterinary costs so that they wouldn’t have to consider euthanizing or surrendering their pet. Out of the gate, we realized there was a need out there. He [Kelleher] had the expertise in the veterinarian world and Diane and I brought in the experience and expertise of how to start a nonprofit organization.”
Both Patty Cohen and Diane Schaefer each have over 30 years of nonprofit management and fund development. Diane was the original founder of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project.
Diane discussed the criteria for being eligible for the funding.
“First of all, the applicant needs to be a resident of Rockingham or Strafford County. We realized that the need is very great in the state of New Hampshire, for this kind of organization. We thought we would start in our own backyard and we’ve had plenty of applications from these two counties since our beginning. The individual has to be a resident of one of these two counties and they must be able to show some kind of financial need. Typically, they’re on some kind of state, federal, or local assistance program. The animal has to have a positive prognosis. That is, if we are going to give a grant award of up to $500 per case, we want to make sure that the animal is going to have a good prognosis after the treatment.”
Pet owners know $500 can be a drop in the bucket for an emergency vet appointment. Diane talked about how $500 can help.
“It’s enough for the pet owner to make a decision on how to proceed. Many people can’t even afford the evaluation and diagnosis. So it gives them that time to make a good decision on behalf of their pet. Sometimes, they ask friends and family for help. They might have some other resources they can access. Some do GoFundMe pages.”
“Our $500 doesn’t often cover it,” Patty added, “but what it does, it can legitimize the situation, and then family and friends sort of step up. When someone can say I’ve gotten this $500 from New Hampshire Pet Aid, it does help. In the early days when we were trying to figure out where are we going to cap it, we had to cap it somewhere for the preservation of the nonprofit. Veterinarians are on our board, and by the way, there are only eight of us, we’re all volunteers. And that’s it, we make this organization run.”
The organization which is a 501(c)(3) started in 2020 and since then NH Pet Aid has helped nearly 80 cases. They have a three-person decision team which rotates among the board members. Two of them have veterinary experience and one is a pet owner.
Diane explained the process for the application.
“We’re able to make funding decisions pretty quickly. We have an online application. They fill that out. They must include a photo ID, a treatment plan estimate from their veterinarian, and some kind of indication of financial need to show that we are helping the neediest people.”
To understand the value of this organization, Patty explained a couple of circumstances where they helped pets get the medical care they needed.
“Willow was in a freak accident. Her owner’s mother was taking Willow for a walk and fell and her elbow fell onto Willow’s paw. The owner was not able to afford emergency care. It needed to be set and it needed a little cast. And then there was a little puppy, Gino, who we’ve had three of these, house fires. In a couple of those cases, those folks weren’t on any financial aid but were kind of on the margins and living paycheck to paycheck. And then this house fire happened and they had nothing. The pets in both of these cases, suffered smoke inhalation and were given oxygen by the paramedics who arrived to help but that can be very dangerous. We’ve learned from the veterinarians that a dog or cat needs to be observed overnight and given continuous oxygen.”
For more information on how to apply or how to donate go to www.nhpetaid.org.