So, about a year ago, I read a heartbreaking story that is all too common, about a woman whose dog broke its leg, having been run over an dragged by a car. She took him to the vet and the bill was $10,000. Unable to pay for it, and denied for a credit line through Care Credit (the popular credit card used for medical, dental, and vet expenses), she had no choice but to take the dog home, in his suffering and broken state.
This should not happen.
Last month, another heartbreaking story out of California emerged, whereby, Charlie, a hero dog, saved his family from home invaders. Charlie jumped in the line of fire and took several bullets on his small but heroic body. What a guy! But the low-income family, as much as they loved Charlie, could not afford to take him to a vet that day and were forced to drop him off a shelter. Luckily, a shelter employee posted an emergency rallying call for Charlie online and, within an hour, the $4,000 for Charlie’s expenses were raised. Charlie underwent a successful operation and is back home with his family now. But what if that shelter employee hadn’t taken that step and what if that money hadn’t been raised?
And now this week, a story arose about an elderly couple who dropped off their 13-year-old dog at a shelter with a note explaining that, as an elderly couple on a fixed, low-income, they could not afford the vet bills of their ailing dog. (UPDATE: (UPDATE: Stories like this continue to abound. For instance, read here about Tucker and his hard-working waitress mom who was only able to afford his surgery because a kind stranger left her $1,000 tip after hearing about Tucker’s plight; or, see here, for horribly burned Beatrice (who was stolen from the backyard and savagely burned by torturers), for whom surgery and recuperation services costs have yet to be met).
This cannot and should not happen in the world’s richest nation. Yes, humans lack health insurance (myself included) but we have options — in the event of an emergency, we are at least treated first and can worry about the bill later, with forgiveness plans or payment plans available. Our nation’s laws dictate no emergency room can turn us away. With dogs, however, most vets won’t even perform the procedure.
Imagine being hit by a car — and receiving no treatment. Imagine having a broken leg, and being told: “sorry, your family will just have to take your home while you scream in pain all night.” Imagine having a terrible illness, and, despite the existence of ways to make you better again, the world doesn’t care about your hourly suffering.
Something must be done. A society’s level of civilization, it was once said, is measured by the way in which it treats its animals. And, a wise woman once said (nah, full disclosure: it’s just me), if you care not for dogs, you do not have a heart.
My idea is to start a nationwide charity for dogs who need surgery, and whose families cannot afford it. Currently there are some charities out there who do this (see, e.g., here) but they seem poorly organized and not sufficiently accountable (often collecting money through PayPal, for instance, with no reassurance of where/how the money is being used).
Technically, I imagine it could work something like this: The non-profit charity is set up and starts to raise funds. EVERYTHING WOULD BE COMPLETELY TRANSPARENT/ACCOUNTABLE so that any visitor to the site can see, in real-time, the funds we have received from donors, and the funds we have disbursed (X surgery, for X dog, in X city, performed by X vet, along with photos of the dog’s treatment and his recovery).
The donated funds would go into a general pool. That pool would then be used to draw from, on a per-case basis, and cover the costs of qualifying cases. We could also have separate individual fundraiser drives for specific cases — since sometimes folks prefer to donate to specific dog and his/her plight. For instance, you could donate to the general pool and/or you could specify a donation to a particular case (for instance, we would have up on the website: “This is Spike. Spike has a torn ACL. He lives in Louisville. The surgery will cost $2,500 and will be performed by Dr. Lee.” And we would have a bar underneath showing how much has been raised so far for Spike and the deadline. So a donor could donate $50 and know it’s specifically going towards Spike. Donors could even mail in additional things for Spike’s recovery: toys, treats, etc.
Donors would have the option of donating anonymously or having their name and city displayed along with their donation amount.
I believe that, as the charity grows, we could develop a network of preferred vets in each major city who would work with us to offer discounted rates on the surgical procedures.
As for qualifying cases, this would be a charity for those who cannot afford to pay and who likely do not have good credit to qualify for a credit line (e.g., to qualify for Care Credit). So we would require proof of low income via either (a) a copy of last year’s tax return (showing a TBD income gross income maximum); or (b) a letter from the state showing the individual is on government assistance (e.g., a food stamps letter). Any seniors whose sole income is social security; as well as any college students who are on financial aid, would also qualify.
Perhaps we would just start out with one or two cases and do fundraising drives for those one or two cases. I imagine it would grow as word gets out and as more cases come in and more donations come in.
Americans are the most generous people on Earth. And I believe there are many of us who would love to donate to a dog’s surgery Kickstarter fund but we sometimes (unnecessarily, as they are rarely ‘scams’) worry: “What if it’s a scam? How do I know this is legit? It’s just a photo of a dog and a story….” Well, a neutral, established non-profit charity that has already done that investigative legwork for you (spoken to the applicant; verified their income) neutralizes that fear.
OK: that’s about all I have to say for now. It would really help if you could share, Tweet, post on Facebook, and email this post around to get others talking about this idea. If you have comments or suggestions, please add a Comment below and we can figure this out together!
And, of course, if there are any millionaires out there feeling generous who would like to get this going, the Charlies, Spikes, and Rockys of America need you!
God bless you all,