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Low cost vet care and food stamps for pets

A better life awaits two-year old Daisy who was recently rescued from a puppy mill.
Cindy McSperitt / Mainstream
A better life awaits two-year old Daisy who was recently rescued from a puppy mill.

When people fall on hard times, there are services available to assist them.  But what about their pets?

Douglas County Low-Cost Veterinary Services can help.  Julia Russill, founder of DCLVS, established the clinic to serve the needs of low-income and homeless pet owners as well as respond to the pet overpopulation crisis in Douglas County. 

 “We are a full service vet clinic with an emphasis on spay/neuter,” Russill said.  They provide the same services and level of care as other veterinary clinics, but at a reduced cost.  The clinic primarily cares for dogs and cats, but will consider all types of animals.

The organization incorporated as a non-profit in 2009 and opened at their current location in June 2011.  They took over part of the old Douglas County Cancer Center located at 545 W. Umpqua St. and the move has been a good fit for them.  “We have approximately 4000 sq. ft.,” Russill said. 

The clinic is complete with surgery and recovery rooms, a nurse’s station and a pharmacy.  There is even a bereavement room for those people faced with having to part with their pets.

Clients must meet income requirements to qualify for assistance.  “If you are on any type of public assistance, you automatically qualify because the state has already qualified you,” Russill said.  If you are not on public assistance, your family income must be below 150 percent of the US Dept. of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines.  Many students struggling to make ends meet may find they qualify under these guidelines.    

Another requirement is that pets be spayed or neutered.  “If our clients are unwilling to spay or neuter their pets, we don’t see them,” Russill said.  “The first full year we were open (in 2012), we spayed and neutered 1700 animals.”

“We’re a different kind of vet clinic.  We do what needs to be done”

—Julia Russill

The clinic also provides free veterinary care for pets under the Pets of the Homeless program.  “However, there are some very serious restrictions on who is considered homeless,” Russill said.  “You have to be living under a bridge or camping at the river.  Couch surfing does not count.”

The clinic even provides transportation for pets whose owners don’t drive or who are homebound.  “We’re a different kind of vet clinic.  We do what needs to be done,” Russill said.  

“The one time you don’t have to meet income requirements is when dealing with feral cats,” Russill said.  Through the clinic’s Feral Cat program, anyone can bring in a feral cat and have it spayed or neutered at the discounted rate of $48 for females and $30 for males.  “I want to encourage people to trap their feral cats, bring them in, get them spayed or neutered, and then release them again,” Russill said.

The clinic also offers a Pet Food for Free program.  “People in dire need of pet food can come here and we give it away as long as their pet is spayed or neutered,” Russill said.  Donations of pet food can be made to the clinic by anyone interested in doing so.  “The food program is for anybody, but most of our clientele are homeless,” Russill added.

Their program is similar to the Pet Food Stamps program which was created to help pet owners during our difficult economic times.  With many people facing job losses and foreclosures, there has been a rise in the number of pets that have been taken to shelters. 

 “Seven million pets are surrendered to shelters each year due to the inability of pet parents to pay for food, with four million of those pets put to sleep,” according to the Pet Food Stamp website. The Pet Food Stamp program hopes to keep pets with their families by providing pet owners with free monthly home delivery of food supplies for their pets.  If you are receiving food stamps or are low-income, you can apply for pet food stamps here: www.petfoodstamps.org.