Central Coast

Dear Jon: There's hope for pet owners who can't afford care

One local non-profit has a unique grant funding process

You may have been in a situation where your pet had a life threatening condition, but you couldn't pay for care due to one reason or another. It's a really tough situation to be in, the thought of losing your pet to a lack of funds. Shelly wrote to me and asked, "Dear Jon, my pet has a serious medical condition, but I can't pay for care, is there any hope?"

Yes there is hope and one resource I've located here on the Central Coast is called the BirchBark Foundation.

Founders Dr. Merrianne Burtch and Executive Director Bunny Tavares created the BirchBark Foundation in April of 2013. Their hope was be a resource to save the precious relationship we have with our pets if our ability to pay for life saving care was inhibited somehow.

And to date, they've helped save 51 dogs and cats on the Central Coast. That's 51 families kept together through their foundation that looks to not allow finances to be the sole reason a life or death decision has to be made.

Dr. Burtch says, "Right now we have 25 to 30 veterinary hospitals in Santa Cruz and Monterey County that are associate members. So the veterinary hospitals agree to discount the bill a percentage, we ask the owners to come up with a percentage and then the foundation pays the balance."

Their sphere of care is broad but it has to be life threatening, "Probably the most common is hit by car, fracture, we've definitely have done bladder stones," says Burtch.

The way the BirchBark Foundation works is the owner contacts the foundation, and after an intake interview, Tavares gets the medical records from the hospital that the animal is at. Says Burtch, "A five member panel of veterinarians reviews the records to make sure that we're all in agreement that the prognosis is good and the chance for survival is high."

That process can take an hour to as much as 12 hours, but they know the clock is ticking for the pet's sake.

This is not a free ride, Tavares says the pet owner must initiate the call to the foundation and you have to qualify for a grant.

The BirchBark Foundation is one financial aid resource for your pet with a life threatening ailment.

You can get all the particulars at www.BirchBarkFoundation.org and you can call the foundation at 831-462-6004.

They exist due to voluntary donations.

If they can't help your specific situation then they'll have suggestions for you and where else you might look for care.

If you'd like to email me a question, send it to DearJon@KIONRightNow.com. I'm also on Facebook and Twitter, just search for 'Jon K Brent KION.'


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