By Anne Ralph
The concept and aspirations of ‘Tails of Help’ were greeted with huge interest and appreciation by the wide spectrum of people who attended the popular Pet Expo at Spruce Meadows in Calgary recently. The event proved to be an ideal platform for ‘Tails of Help’ to build awareness, and proved beyond doubt that the ideals behind this registered charity are much needed and will benefit pet owners and innovative veterinary practices across the province.
For veterinarians who have dedicated their lives to the care of companion pets, there can be few things more upsetting than meeting a loving owner who may be facing loss of their beloved pet because of their inability to afford the costs of essential treatment that their furry friend requires. Sadly, this scenario is played out in veterinary clinics across Alberta every single day, with elderly, disabled and low income pet owners faced with surrendering or in some cases euthanizing their pet, or pets being forced to suffer unnecessarily as their owner cannot afford the essential treatment required to help save their lives.
Veterinarians, for the most part, will usually offer some form of help and advice primarily to assist a suffering animal, but veterinary bills are expensive for a reason, and the costs involved in administering modern veterinary services and maintaining up-to-date facilities, equipment and fully qualified staff are extremely high. Therefore, while most veterinarians will do what they can to help, this help is by and large determined by financial constraints.
This is where ‘Tails of Help’ comes in and, with the support of veterinarians and their staff, the devastating sight of distraught owners who genuinely cannot afford to help their ill or injured pets could soon be a thing of the past.
‘Tails of Help’ was established in 2013 and is a volunteer driven registered charity focused on helping Albertans in need. Working with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, ‘Tails of Help’ provides funding assistance for essential veterinary care for the pets of owners who are experiencing financial hardship and who meet the charity’s specific eligibility criteria.
The formal and technical name for the organization is ‘The Alberta Pet Essential Treatment Foundation’ (ABPETF) but the public and more user-friendly name is ‘Tails of Help’. The ABVMA has a majority stake in the foundation and a majority position on the Board of Directors in order to ensure that the organization is a secure long-term sustainable structure with integrity and high credibility. While the ABVMA does not donate cash to fund ‘Tails of Help’, it has provided certain resources at no cost to ‘Tails of Help’ and has engaged key veterinary members with a passion to develop this worthy activity. Funding for ‘Tails of Help’ is and will be provided from direct fundraising with the public, foundations and corporations, and the organization actively encourages direct contributions from ABVMA members.
Veterinary practices across Alberta are being invited to become donors and/or deliver the program and to promote the availability of the program to their clients and the public. In order to participate, the practice must be an ABVMA Certified Veterinary practice, which agrees to comply with the terms and conditions of the program. The practice must agree to evaluate the owner and the patient according to the program criteria and nominate only eligible cases and eligible owners.
The practice will also be asked to help with the promotion of the program, which can entail requesting a ‘Tails of Help’ brochure package for their clinic reception area, educating their staff about the services provided by ‘Tails of Help’ to enable them to fully inform clients and the public, being prepared to submit ‘Tails of Help’ applications on behalf of clients when the need arises, and supporting the organization's fundraising efforts by registering volunteers on the ‘Tails of Help website (www.tailsofhelp.ca).
In order to best serve pet owners and veterinarians and, ultimately, the animals themselves, ‘Tails of Help’ aims to make the process of submitting applications for assistance as quick as possible. In order to achieve this, the veterinary practice should be fully familiar with the qualifying criteria laid down by the organization. A qualifying owner must be an adult resident of Alberta, should agree to contribute to the cost of care for their pet to the extent they are able, and must agree to follow the directions of the veterinarian regarding aftercare. The owner is also required to provide the nominating veterinarian with supporting documentation of their financial qualification for the program as laid down by the organization.
In order for the pet to qualify for assistance, the veterinarian will need to evaluate the medical case for eligibility for funding. The pet must be an owned animal, ill or injured and presented to a participating veterinary practice. The pet must require essential (non-elective) veterinary care and have a condition that failure to treat would result in the death of the animal or would require euthanasia for humane reasons or would necessitate the surrender of the animal. The veterinarian should have a reasonable expectation of a good recovery for the animal. The program is intended to provide essential care, and services such as wellness exams, vaccinations, spays and neuters, ongoing chronic care, cancer treatment and dialysis will not be funded through ‘Tails of Help’. The organization currently has annual limits on amounts of financial assistance available for clinics and for individual owners, with the goal of being able to help a larger number of needy cases rather than a small number of highly expensive cases.
‘Tails of Help’ can and will make a difference for veterinarians having to reluctantly step back from offering the treatment they know could help save an animal’s life. ‘Tails of Help’ can and will make a difference for an owner facing the heartbreak of surrendering or euthanizing their beloved companion when, because of age, disability or circumstance, they cannot afford to help their furry friend. And ‘Tails of Help’ can and will make a difference for a trusting and dependent pet that gets the chance to return healthy to their owners and families.
For contact information and full details on how you can support keeping pets and families together by participating in the ‘Tails of Help’ program, visit the website at www.tailsofhelp.ca