COLORADO – A pup with a broken leg, a kind-hearted veterinary student and a 15 year-old who was willing to work have provided the impetus for a wonderful pilot project named ELLA’S FUND, which helps low-income pet owners trade volunteerism for veterinary care.
Ella, a 4 month-old Australian Shepherd, was brought to Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital with a broken leg. She nearly became a euthanasia statistic but instead the sweet pup spawned some creative problem solving that will save countless animals’ lives.
Ella’s family couldn’t afford to pay for the medical treatment she needed, but third-year veterinary medical student Missy Gelman’s heart led her to pay for Ella’s surgery. She took the dog home with her and when Ella’s family, including 15 year-old Sydnee, brought her the dog’s paperwork, she knew she had to return the dog to the teenager. Missy worked out a deal that if Sydnee volunteered at the vet hospital or any other animal charity or shelter, Ella would be returned to her ‘debt free’.
The teenager paid her debt in volunteer hours and Gelman was inspired to seek a grant from the Banfield Charitable Trust to create a new program based on her idea. Banfield provides over $500,000 annually in grants to pet-related organizations that focus on the root causes of the surrender of pets to shelters. They stepped up with a $27,000 grant to begin Ella’s Fund. This creative problem solving is just what Banfield likes to see: “While we applaud the improtant efforts of all pet-related organizations, we are committed to supporting programs that prevent the crisis of surrender and work to keep pets with their families.”
Anyone who’s been to a veterinarian lately can understand the strain on low-income families to keep up with their pets’ healthcare. Unfortunately, this is a major reason that pets are being surrendered to shelters. In the CSU area alone, 3,000 dogs and cats were surrendered to shelters where inability to pay for veterinary care was a leading cause of surrender.
Last November, a USA Today report noted that 8 out of 10 pets had been to a veterinarian in the past year. Of those not receiving annual exams and vaccinations, some owners said they couldn’t afford the care or that they only go when the pet is very ill. The report showed that pet owners can spend over $500 per year on well-care such as vaccinations, flea and tick treatments and heartworm prevention. Illness such as cancer or emergency care can cost over $10,000.
Ella’s Fund, geared mainly toward teenagers of the family, not only helps with the pet’s care but also teaches responsibility and animal advocacy and exposes the next generation to the huge problem of shelter overpopulation.
CSU Veterinary Hospital projects that Ella’s Fund will serve 120 pets directly and generate about 2,000 of volunteer service to other pets in need.
Kathleen Henry, President and CEO of Colorado State University Foundation says, “By having teenagers volunteer their time at selct facilities, the program helps people to understand the scopte of animals in need and the time and effort that is required to adequately care for them. We plan to use Ella’s Fund as a model for other veterinary teaching hospitals across the United States. Banfield’s investment will go a long way to starting us down that path.”
As Ella’s Fund gets off the ground and hopefully sparks a nationwide movement of volunteerism in trade for veterinary care, Ella herself is a happy, healthy dog whose leg has healed well. Thanks to Missy Gelman and Banfield Charitable Trust, countless other animals will now have a chance to be healthy as well.
Read more about Banfield Charitable Trust and learn how you can donate to this great organization, click here.
For more on school clubs that will encourage the next generation of animal advocates, click here.
Read about an incredible young girl who saved an injured dog, click here.
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