When recent college graduate Nina Sandovall’s cat fell and broke its leg, she did what any pet guardian would do and rushed her fur ball to the vet. There she found out her cat had a broken right femur and she was faced with a bill of more than $3,000 for surgery.
“It turns out he has a genetic weakness that was passed down through his parents, who may have neglected him at birth. But I didn’t know anything as I rescued him and his brother,” said Sandovall.
This genetic weakness meant Sandovall’s cat Syre could have broken his femur by jumping off the bed or even running too fast.
“It happened at night he jumped on my bed and was meowing in a way I had never heard him meow before. He couldn’t stand on his leg or put weight on it, he was clearly uncomfortable. So that is when I took him to the vet,” she said.
At Kelowna’s emergency vet she paid more than $300 for X-rays before being handed a quote of $3,000 for surgery.
This was a bill recent human services graduate Sandovall couldn’t afford, having lived on a fixed income for the last two years while she was putting herself through school and working unpaid on a practicum at 30 hours a week.
“I didn’t know what to do, these cats are my world,” she explained. “I always say this is their apartment, I just live here.”
That is when West Kelowna vet Dr. Oz and the Okanagan Humane Society joined forces.
Dr. Oz of Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital heard Sandovall’s story and understood her current financial situation and offered to donate his time and do the surgery at a reduced cost. From there Okanagan Humane Society (OHS) jumped in to support Sandovall and her cat Syre.
Romany Runnells, board president for OHS, said Sandovall applied for a program that is available to anyone who is low-income or has barriers to accessing veterinary care due to financial reasons, with a focus mostly on spay and neutering.
“In this economic climate, we are seeing an enormous uptick in people asking for help with this program, with an almost 25 per cent increase this year over previous years. This is due to fixed-income people, typically on disability or welfare and their income hasn’t been increasing with inflation. Now they have to choose between feeding themselves, paying rent and caring for themselves, much less taking care of their pet when something happens,” said Runnells.
OHS is often available to help with spaying and neutering costs, which can be upwards of $400 or can assist when a pet falls ill. However, the assistance OHS can provide is dependent on its donors and the charitable funds it receives from those in the community.
“We are able to negotiate with our veterinary partners and we have approximately 20 clinics that we work with to try and come to a little bit better pricing to help these pets but not always. Often vets will subside procedures when the those who are applying qualify for it,” explained Runnells.
Runnells said the goal of OHS is to keep people and their pets together, and it doesn’t matter why they have pets it’s the fact these people are providing a loving home for these animals that is important.
“Most of our clients are one-time clients, they are in a situation that is very dire and we help them and less than one per cent come back to us asking for assistance,” she said. “You can’t choose when your pets get sick and so it’s very situational for these people.”
Often the clients will go on to be advocates for OHS, just as Sandovall said she will.
“I really owe Dr. Oz and the humane society, they both treated me with such respect. They wanted photos and checked in on me every day after the surgery. They really cared and so I owe them everything,” said Sandovall.
Syre is now recovering and Sandovall said he is healing and she is helping him do stretches for the best possible outcome for his femur.
Okanagan Humane Society is a registered charity that relies on support from the community and receives no government or municipal funding.
The society’s mandate started with spay and neuter services with a plan to help control the pet population in the Okanagan. So far, this local charity has spayed or neutered more than 24,000 animals and counting. The volunteer run team rescued, rehabilitated and fostered more than 1,300 animals in the last year.
To donate to OHS you can go to www.okanaganhumanesociety.com/donate.
READ MORE: Okanagan Humane Society: Life on the streets