Did you know that millions of pets do not receive adequate veterinary care because the costs are simply beyond a family’s ability to pay for it? Lack of access to care is the most significant animal welfare crisis affecting owned pets, with more than 1 in 4 families struggling to access veterinary care and an estimated 25 million pets living in poverty in the US. Inflation has made it harder for most pet owners to pay veterinary bills, a Forbes Advisor Survey recently found, while lack of pet-friendly housing and a growing shortage of veterinarians add to the problem. When families are experiencing hardship, these issues are often the reason why they might make the difficult choice to surrender their pets to shelters.
HSSV’s mission is to save lives, keep families together, and create a better future for pets and their people – and as such, the organization is dedicated to preventing these difficult choices through one of three Strategic Priorities: Keeping Families Together.
As part of Keeping Families Together, HSSV provides services such as Wellness Waggin,’ a fully-equipped mobile surgical unit that provides free spay/neuter and wellness clinics to the pets of people who face significant barriers that restrict their access to affordable veterinary care. HSSV also has a Pet Pantry program, which ensures that no pet goes hungry due to financial hardship or lack of access.
“These programs and projects are designed to make sure that pets can stay in their homes,” says Jaime Allen, Senior Director, Community Programs in Community Development. “You shouldn’t have to worry that if your pet gets sick, you won’t be able to provide them with the necessary veterinary care to keep them healthy. Nobody should have to lose their pet to illness or be forced to give them up because they can’t access care.”
For years, HSSV has been providing veterinary care through clinics designed to help people in need of care for their pets. The clinics provide spay/neuter services, and also offer basic veterinary services including wellness exams, vaccines, microchips, flea treatment, de-wormer, and other treatments and medications. Provided in partnership with social service agencies providing services to older adults, as well as individuals experiencing financial, housing, and food insecurity, the goal is to meet people where they are to improve the well-being of pets in the community, and keeping animals where they belong – with the families who love them.
“The folks we’re working with love their pets. They just can’t get vaccines or basic care when they need them. When that happens, a pet is more likely to get sick, gets foxtails or ear infections, and they may not have any way to make sure their pet’s not in pain because they can’t go to a vet,” Allen says.
The Access to Veterinary Care program has grown significantly over the past few years, offering 100 more clinics than the previous year that provided care to over 2,000 animals. This includes 25 spay/neuter clinics that, in addition to surgeries, provided core vaccines, microchips, flea/tick preventative, and dewormer to almost 500 animals; and 80 wellness clinics serving over 1,800 animals at locations including housing sites, city parks, senior centers, and HSSV in FY23.
“Teddy is the reason I wake up in the morning,” said Caron, who lives in San Jose, of the sweet and confident cat she found abandoned by a neighbor. “I love the heck out of him and swear he understands every word I say.”
Caron brought Teddy into the clinic for a rabies shot and dropped off two female cats for spaying. She learned about the HSSV services from a friend. “It’s such a good thing,” she says. “I didn’t know where to take them and can’t afford it. It’s a life saver.”
In addition to clinics, HSSV’s Pet Pantry makes it possible for more people facing financial insecurity to have and keep their loving animal companions in their lives by:
- Offering on-site pickup 4x week, serving over 200 families & 400 pets each month.
- Providing human service partners with 8,000 meals to distribute each month.
- Delivering services to 36 homebound seniors and unhoused families. HSSV provided 46,000 pet meals monthly and more than 500,000 meals in FY 23.
“For me, giving up my pups has NEVER been an option,” writes one client. “A few times I have sacrificed eating my portion of dinner to make sure my family and pups have eaten dinner. Since finding out about [HSSV’s Pet Pantry Program], they have full tummies every day.”
Providing wellness services and delivering pet food at easy-to-access locations to the people who need them increases our community’s capacity to care for their pet family members,” Allen says. “Pets bring people a lot of joy and companionship and can help us deal with our stress better too. Everyone should be able to have a pet in their lives, regardless of their ability to access direct services.”
Both programs are supported by Stevens Creek Toyota, who provided two vehicles to be used for wellness clinics and other community events. “We are proud to announce our partnership with the Humane Society of Silicon Valley,” says Ray Khandan, General Manager. “At Stevens Creek Toyota, we believe in driving compassion and support for our furry friends. Together with HSSV, we’re committed to creating a brighter future for both our customers and the animals we love.”
Community support is critical in enabling HSSV to deliver these services. HSSV accepts donations of pet food and also needs volunteer drivers to deliver food to clients. For more information, visit hssv.org/volunteer.