“In many cases animals aren’t receiving the medical care because the veterinary practice doesn’t ever see them. The owner readily admits, ‘I can’t afford this’ so they stay home and the pet suffers through the illness or disease they have. Sometimes they die and we only hear about it from a neighbor, a good friend or family member. Everyone suffers and it is heartbreaking.” -– Lucille Landals, past president of the Alberta Association of Animal Health Technologists (AAAHT)
Tails of Help (TOH) is founded on the belief that animals are an integral part of a family’s well being. It is an organization that funds essential veterinary care for ill or injured pets of owners who are experiencing financial hardship. The goal is to help keep pets healthy and with their loving families.
“We have to cope with this challenge on a daily, weekly, monthly basis where individuals come in to the clinic with their pet, who is needing some kind of medical attention or procedure and that person simply can’t afford it. You start subsidizing that from the veterinary practice but there is a limit to what a veterinary practice can afford.”
This is precisely why Ms. Landals, and those she works with, have been very supportive of Tails of Help since its inception. Tails of Help can assist families and veterinary clinics in these stressful situations.
How big is this problem? Each month nearly 8,000 families in Alberta require financial aid for pet health care costs. Of these cases, 35% are euthanized, 25% receive no treatment or the animal is surrendered, and 40% involve cost sharing or pro-bono treatment by veterinarians. Already, Alberta veterinary practices and staff contribute more than any other source to help with this burden, but cannot carry all costs.
“What drives us to the field (veterinary care) is a love of animals, an interest in animals…We’re not driven by money, we’re driven by interest and care and concern. So as a group we were able to make a significant contribution where singly we might not be.” – Lucille Landals, past president of the Alberta Association of Animal Health Technologists (AAAHT)
Lucille Landals has been caring for animals for most of her life. She has been a registered animal health technologist for the last 35 years and, along with her husband Duane, has owned and operated veterinary practices in Onoway and Morinville, Alberta. She knows firsthand that too many Albertans are forced to give up a family pet because they cannot afford the necessary health care. She has witnessed the importance of pets and the complex social benefits of keeping pets within their family. The bond between humans and animals has been proven to provide mental and physical benefits to pet owners.
“We know that pets are often very needed in peoples’ lives. Sometimes they are their only companion and sometimes, their only motivation for daily living … when they come into the clinic, they have a pet that is either sick or needs a surgery and simply cannot pay to have their animal cared for. This is very distressing for the family of the animal, the health technologists, and veterinarians.”
The situation is often quite tragic as families contemplate surrendering the animal to an animal shelter or humane society, euthanizing the pet, or having the animal live with chronic pain and illness until it dies. Landals sees this as a major opportunity for Tails of Help to step in and help all sides.
“If we can help them (animals), and keep them in their existing home, I can see these programs (Tails of Help) really helping us keep animals out of the cycle of being surrendered. The rescue groups and the humane societies, they need to focus their activities on animals that truly, truly need assistance of re-homing.”
This desire to keep families together, and the recognition of such a need in the community, led members of the AAAHT to donate from membership dues to contribute to Tails of Help getting off the ground. This group donation demonstrates tremendous support for the work of Tails of Help from the AAAHT in Alberta. These front line workers who see this struggle first hand, driven by their love of animals, donated a contribution of $15,000 for the Tails of Help Founders Campaign.
“We can’t afford as individual people to provide this level of support to Tails of Help. But as a group we were able to make a significant contribution where singly we might not be able.”
Tails of Help currently assists those families on Alberta Income Supplement for Severely Disabled Recipient and Guaranteed Income Supplement Program and plans to expand the reach of their assistance in the future. Ms. Landals encapsulates the importance of this work when she says,
“These pets are their family members. They live in their homes, and people treat them like they are part of the family. And for that reason, the social responsibility of providing care at the clinic level has gotten more demanding every year.”
Veterinary professionals like Ms. Landals and the AAAHT have responded to this increased demand on their own, but there is only so much that each clinic and each AHT can do. By donating their time, talent, expertise and financial resources to make Tails of Help a reality, the medical community is enthusiastically affirming the need for such a program in the Alberta community.
“I really do see that this program will help us keep animals in their current homes, and it will reduce the stress on those social networks that care for families, including those that focus on on animals.”