When vet care becomes too pricey, this animal hospital steps in to help

·3 min read

A new animal hospital is preparing to open in the Halifax area that will offer financial assistance to pet owners who are struggling to pay their veterinary bills.

The SPCA Veterinary Hospital in Dartmouth is the first full-service, social enterprise hospital in Eastern Canada, according to the animal welfare charity.

The hospital, established by the Nova Scotia SPCA with the help of donations from PetSmart Charities of Canada, is expected to open for business in late January or early February.

Dr. Kellie Haggett, a veterinarian at the new hospital, said the idea came after seeing so many people pass through the Dartmouth SPCA shelter who had to surrender their pets due to high vet bills.

"We see a lot of animals that are being relinquished or given to us because of medical needs; they have medical conditions that have become too expensive for their owners to care for," said Haggett.

"It just occurred to us that maybe we could start the process a little bit sooner and help keep those pets in the homes of their owners."

An idea that began years ago

The SPCA already has a spay and neuter program to help low-income pet owners. A few years ago, the non-profit began thinking about expanding those services to include wellness and preventive care.

"It's always kind of been in the back of our minds, but it's just really come to fruition now," said Haggett.

The cost of treatment at the new hospital will be comparable to other facilities. However, what makes the SPCA Veterinary Hospital unique is its ability to access funding to supplement the cost of treatment when individuals are not able to pay the entire amount.

There are a number of reasons why someone might qualify for assistance, said Heather Woodin, director of programs for the SPCA.

"If people are on a fixed income or on social assistance — we see students that are on a fixed income as well — that type of thing. There may also be people that are working and have an income, but they also do qualify. It's not a set level," said Woodin.

Some of the funding will come from the SPCA Sunshine Fund, which accepts online donations to help subsidize the cost of emergency medical care. As well, pet owners who are able to cover the full price of their pets' treatment will have a portion of what they've paid funnelled back into the hospital's coffers for its low-income program.

New equipment for all types of care

The hospital has new equipment, including full surgical and dental suites, in addition to X-ray and ultrasound machines.

"We have very good diagnostic capabilities," said Haggett. "And that's going to allow us to provide pets with the medical, surgical wellness and preventive health care that they need."

Haggett said the hospital has already received a number of inquiries, creating a slight backlog.

"For anyone who is trying to get in contact with us, we are still here, it's just taking us a little bit of time," said Haggett.

Even though the hospital is not officially open, Haggett said the facility is fully equipped to handle an emergency.

"If there is anyone that has an urgent medical crisis, we'll try to help out in any way that we can."

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