For a limited time, some area low-income pet owners will be able to get free veterinary care for their beloved companion animals.
The Center in Yankton recently won a grant through its Meals on Wheels program to partner with a local veterinarian in connecting low-income residents over age 60 with free well-pet related veterinary care.
The program, called Pampered Pets, is available through Feb. 23, 2023, and includes pet examinations, vaccinations, flea and tick products, heartworm products, nail trimming and dental care.
Applications must be filled out in person at The Center, 900 Whiting Drive. Anyone in the community can apply to see if they qualify by income. It is not necessary to be a member of The Center.
“According to the Meals on Wheels America website, over half of adults aged 50-80 years old have a pet, and more than three-quarters of them say their animals reduce their stress and give them a sense of purpose,” Kriss Thury, The Center’s executive director, told the Press & Dakotan.
The website explains that one in four seniors lives alone and, for many of them, their pet is their closest companion and one of their only sources of consistent comfort. Also, pets play an important role in the life of a homebound older adult, providing social connection and enhancing their physical and mental health and well-being, according to the website.
However, the fixed incomes of seniors may not be able to keep pace with the increasing cost of pet care.
In 2021, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimated the routine annual medical costs for dogs and cats as follows:
• Vaccines and wellness visits for dogs: $225 — for cats: $160;
• preventative medications for heartworm, fleas and ticks for dogs: $185 — for cats: $140;
• Dental for dogs: $500 — for cats: $300;
• Food for dogs: $300 — for cats: $225.
The grant is funded through PetSmart Charities, which, according to its website, is committed to connecting people with pets and supporting them by easing access to veterinary services.
The Center was the only non-profit in South Dakota awarded the grant, Thury said, adding that it will continue to offer free pet food monthly for qualifying individuals.
“If I had to guess, the people who have taken advantage of this have probably never used a veterinarian for preventative care — mostly only in an emergency,” she said. “It was nice that we could offer that for them.”
If transportation to and from the veterinarian is an issue, arrangements could be made through The Center in terms of a ride or cab fare to partnering veterinarian Animal Health Clinic (AHC) in Yankton, Thury said.
Of the four visits served so far through the grant, at least one individual had never sought vet care due to the associated costs, Cordi Miller, AHC receptionist and contact for grant-related appointments, told the Press & Dakotan.
The program gave participants the opportunity to get their pet up to date on everything, she said.
“A couple of people said, ‘This is just really great. It helps a lot,’” Miller said, noting that rising costs are making it difficult for some people to maintain their (pet’s) health with preventatives and needed medicines.
“Also, for older people, there’s that companionship with a pet, where it doesn’t matter how crappy a day you’ve had, you go home, and that dog is happy to see you, or that cat — OK, some cats are happy to see you — and it’s kind of funny to watch (the older people) in here to see how they hold those puppies.”
For more information, call 605-665-4685.