SF Aid for Animals: Serves the City’s Needy Dogs

Dear Readers: This month we asked local veterinarians Ilana Strubel and Alan Stewart to tell us about a new nonprofit effort in San Francisco that aims to help our neediest canine citizens.

San Francisco Aid for Animals, is a project of the San Francisco Veterinary Medical Association and will provide charitable donations to cover necessary veterinary care when funds are not available from other sources. More info at www.sfaidforanimals.org.

Those of us who are lucky enough to share our lives with dogs know that besides providing them with food, shelter, and love, we must also make sure that their medical needs are met. When all goes well, this means taking them for their regular check-ups, keeping them up to date on flea control and vaccinations, and perhaps getting them treatment for a minor ailment. Once in a while, though, something more serious happens – your dog develops a sudden illness or suffers an injury – that requires an unexpected and sometimes costly trip to the veterinary hospital. 

For some people, this already stressful event becomes even more painful when they find they are unable to afford the cost of urgent veterinary care for their beloved canine companions. When this happens, they may be faced with the agonizing decision to euthanize or give up their animals.

Very few options exist to help dog guardians with emergency veterinary expenses. Although we are fortunate in the Bay Area to have some wonderful animal welfare organizations and shelters that provide some assistance for veterinary care, the sad fact is that there are many more animals in need than they can help, especially in this challenging economic climate. 

In 2010, the San Francisco Veterinary Medical Association (SFVMA) decided to see what it could do to help meet this need, and in the spring of 2011 it launched San Francisco Aid for Animals (SFAfA).

San Francisco Aid for Animals is a nonprofit fund that will provide grants, through SFVMA member veterinarians, to pet owners who cannot afford the full cost of diagnosis and treatment for their animals. A puppy with parvovirus, a dog with a broken leg, or a senior canine citizen with sudden bloat – these are some examples of emergency conditions that can often be successfully treated given sufficient resources.  SFAfA has been created to give companion animals with urgent, fixable problems like these a chance at survival.  

One such dog, a spunky and loving Chihuahua named Riot, has already received a small initial grant from SFAfA, which helped his owners afford emergency surgery when he suddenly became obstructed with a urinary bladder stone that they didn’t know he had. Riot came in to his veterinarian with this life-threatening condition when his owners observed that he was straining to urinate but could only pass a few drops of dark-colored urine. His bladder had become so distended that without emergency intervention it would have ruptured and he would have died.  

When faced with the cost of emergency care to save his life, his family was further devastated. Despite pooling together all their resources to help save their furry friend, they were still in need of financial aid. With the help of his SFVMA member veterinarian, Riot’s family applied forn assistance through Care Credit and at the same time sought help from SFAfA. Although the fledgling charitable fund has only just begun to raise money, the committee was able to offer some assistance and Riot’s family was able to give the go-ahead for his surgery. He is fully recovered now and back to his old antics.

To help many more animals like Riot, SFAfA has set itself an ambitious goal: to raise $60,000 by January 2012, when it will start formally awarding grants to help pets whose owners qualify. In order to qualify, pet owners must be regular clients at one of the participating SFVMA member hospitals, demonstrate financial need, and apply for assistance through their veterinarians.  

Although SF Aid for Animals is presently being run by an all-volunteer group of SFVMA member veterinarians, we believe that we can reach our fundraising goal with enough help from the community. After all, the Bay Area is known to be one of the most animal-friendly communities in existence! To that end, SFAfA is planning some events that will allow animal-lovers to help us raise the funds we need while having fun at the same time.

On July 14th please join us for a “dine out and help out” night at Chevy’s in the Stonestown Galleria. Chevy’s restaurant will donate a percentage of their proceeds that night to SF Aid for Animals. To participate, all you have to do is bring a copy of the Chevy’s event flyer found at the end of this article to the restaurant that night. In September, SF Aid for Animals will host a wine and chocolate tasting party – stay tuned for more details!

More information about San Francisco Aid for Animals, including ways to contribute, can be found at www.sfaidforanimals.org.  San Francisco Aid for Animals is a fiscally sponsored project of Community Initiatives, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. 

Dr. Alan Stewart is the founder of San Francisco Veterinary Specialists and a co-founder of Bay Area Veterinary Specialists. In his spare time, he volunteers, scuba dives, and supports wildlife causes. Dr. Ilana Strubel is a recipient of the Jefferson Award for her work San Francisco’s homeless pets through VET SOS (www.vetsos.org), an organization she founded. She has a long history of community service, having served as president of the board of Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS), and as a founding director on the board of Rocket Dog Rescue.
Article photo: Riot and his dad Peter