One in four pet families report an inability to access needed veterinary care for their pet. The primary barrier is financial, with other factors impacting access to care including transportation, language and perception of being judged.
That rate is among the general population.
In research I was fortunate to co-lead, we found that the rate was double that among Meals on Wheels homebound clients with pets—49.6% of pet families, or one out of every two, were unable to access needed preventative, sick or emergency veterinary care. We know—and continue to learn more every day—how important pets are to the well-being of humans.
In the Meals on Wheels research, we found that:
- 96.6% of homebound clients with pets agreed that having pets in their life made them feel less lonely
- 95.9% agreed that their pet comforts them when they have bad feelings
- 92.8% considered their pet to be their friend
- Nearly one in three pet parents reported going without personal care or necessities for themselves such as medical care, paying bills or utilities in order to provide for their pet(s)
- 77.6% currently need or have needed help with pet food in the past 2 years
- 69.5% currently need or have needed help with pet vaccines
- 60.5% of cat families currently need or have needed help with purchasing cat litter
- Nearly half need help with pet grooming
- One in five pet families need or have needed help with boarding for their pet
- One in three pet families did not have short term care plans for their pet if they got sick and needed to go to the hospital.
The challenges of accessing pet care exist across all age and socio-economic groups. Today, the largest pet-keeping cohort by age group are Millennials, and that age group is found to have 70% of its population living paycheck to paycheck. Pet care, especially when a financial shock such as a car repair or health bill hits, becomes an obvious challenge.
Communities nationwide turn to 211 every day to find the help that they need. We know that both pets and their humans suffer when people cannot obtain care for their animals. We know that bonded families thrive when kept together.
This is why we at our non-profit Open Door Veterinary Collective are so proud to partner with 211 as a community care partner on the Pet Help Finder locator initiative that launched nationwide in February 2023. The site launched with more than 1500 service providers listed and is growing daily.
The locator enables all to find financially friendly veterinary care, pet food and supplies, temporary pet housing, grooming, and behavior and other resources—such as transportation help—to support the pet family. The locator brings together private practices, non-profit organizations, funders, veterinary center chains, voucher programs and others under one supportive platform. There are very meaningful ways to enable pet families to access care without offering the care for free, such as offering payment options that allows people to pay over time that do not require hard credit checks and don’t come with high interest rates. Of course, Pet Help Finder lists many non-profit organizations that offer free services as well.
The site is available in English and Spanish with additional languages coming onboard. The site has and will continue to be designed to align to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 AA standards for persons with disabilities. We are committed to ongoing site maintenance to assure information accuracy and that we are serving providers and site visitors with a valuable experience. In addition, users may provide feedback on any listing to help us support the community with valid content.
After working in community animal welfare for decades, partnering with social service agencies across the care spectrum—from domestic violence centers to organizations serving youth in substance abuse recovery—and now devoting my time to research and innovation to bridge barriers in accessing pet care, it is deeply meaningful for me to be a part of bringing this locator to life and to be a part of #Team211. All of us at Open Door Veterinary Collective, the non-profit home of Pet Help Finder, are proud of this effort and the partnership. Please reach out to any of us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. I’ve included some of the links to the research presented herein below. We’d very much like to thank Life of Riley at Spring Point Partners for funding the launch of this site for all of us. Life of Riley funds programs and initiatives that advance animal welfare in the pet industry and across our communities, and which protect, elevate, and celebrate the bond between people and pets.
Referenced Links and Reports:
- Access to Veterinary Care Coalition, University of Tennessee Veterinary School: https://pphe.utk.edu/access-to-veterinary-care-report/
- Meals on Wheels America Pet Programming and Clients Needs Assessment: https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/docs/default-source/research/pet-programming-and-client-needs-assessment_final-report.pdf
- American Pet Products Association on Millennial pet ownership: https://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_releasedetail.asp?id=1252
- Paycheck to Paycheck PYMTS May 2022: https://www.pymnts.com/economy/2022/millennial-minute-70-of-millennials-live-paycheck-to-paycheck