For the first time in 10 years a free veterinary service for the pets of low-income, transient and homeless people has been cancelled.
Vets for Pets is a volunteer organization comprised of veterinarians, vet technicians and pre-vet students and assistants who provide preventative care for cats and dogs once per month at Our Place, at 919 Pandora Ave.
Typical services include distributing vaccines, flea control and dewormer, and treatment for simple ear, eye and skin infections.
The group visits Our Place on the second Sunday of each month – except for February and July – and in a period of two hours sees an average of 60 pets.
This month however, there were not enough volunteers to allow for the service.
“I think we’re seeing a lot of burnout,” said Vets for Pets founder Jane Vermeulen. “It’s hard to get people out working on their day off.”
Vermeulen started the campaign after she noticed a large population of low-income pets on the streets. Since she started, the homeless population and their pets have increased significantly, with many people reporting problems with Victoria’s housing crisis.
“There are a lot of people who judge and say that homeless people shouldn’t have pets,” Vermeulen said. “They’re going to have pets, that’s just the nature… they shouldn’t be denied companionship because they’re facing a transient time.”
Preventative services such as vaccines and flea treatment do more than help that one pet; it prevents the spreading of contagious diseases to surrounding pets and prevents infections for people in the homeless population with compromised immune systems.
Now, however, Vermeulen and her team are facing a different set of problems.
“After 10 years we’re also now seeing pets getting older,” she said. “Euthanasia is becoming an issue.”
While the mobile team doesn’t have the resources or licenses to perform euthanasia or diagnostics, a local clinic and crematorium has partnered with Vets for Pets to allow for free euthanasia services where the pet owner can be present.
“If you have no money you may not know you can get your pet euthanized for free, you don’t just need to let it die. It can be humane.”
Since its inception Vets for Pets has teamed up with the BCSPCA and West Coast Sassy Cats to expand the possible services and treatments available. A similar campaign called Helping Paws has also opened up in Nanaimo.
Vermeulen hopes that more volunteers can step forward for the next scheduled visit on Sunday, Aug. 11.
“Being a vet is a trade. I could definitely serve soup at Our Place, and it’s great that people do, but I can do this,” Vermeulan said, adding that overall very little time is needed. “For 10 hours a year you can help the pets in the downtown core. Only 10 hours, that’s all I’m asking for.”
For more information, or to sign up as a volunteer you can vetsforpetsvictoria.com.
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