How to handle a pet emergency when you can’t afford it

COVID-19 changed lives in ways that we never imagined possible. One of those ways was the introduction of intense loneliness, isolation and boredom due to the lockdown and stay-home mandates.

Some Americans relied on pharmaceuticals to tolerate the isolation while others turned to overeating, exercise, or even adopting a four-legged companion.

“Shelters, nonprofit rescues, private breeders, pet stores — all reported more consumer demand than there were dogs and puppies to fill it,” according to Kim Kaven at

She goes on to say that pet rescues reported receiving “… dozens of applications for individual dogs. Some breeders were reporting waiting lists well into 2021.”

Add to this the so-called Great Resignation and inflation and we end up with a bunch of folks without the money to cover the basic necessities let alone a pet health emergency.

There is something powerfully comforting about the unconditional love provided by our pets. For many, they become family members. When tragedy strikes a family member, we want to do everything we can to help.

Whether it’s emergency medical care or free pet food, many pet owners have no idea that there is help for them. Let’s take a look at some of that assistance.

Local veterinary teaching hospitals

If you live near a university with a veterinary program and hospital, calling or visiting may be the best first step. Many have surgical funds. The University of California at Davis, for instance, offers the Compassionate Care Fund.

Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital offers The Roach Family Fund.

For contact information for the university near you, consult this nationwide list of accredited colleges of veterinary medicine.

Red Rover

“Bringing animals and their people from crisis to care,” Red Rover’s slogan, aptly describes the many programs the group offers. One of these is their “urgent veterinary care grant.”

“These grants are intended to fill a small gap in funding that is keeping an animal from receiving urgent veterinary care,” the group explains on its website.

“In addition to financial support, case managers are there to provide emotional support and guidance throughout the application process.”

The typical grant, according to the group, is $250.

The group also offers an extensive list of organizations that offer pet-related assistance, organized by state. You’ll find it online at 

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF)

AVMF doesn’t provide funds to the general public, but to individual veterinarians across the country. The funds are intended to “… provide veterinarians with a simple and effective way to offer charitable veterinary services to clients facing personal hardships.”

Ask your veterinarian if you and your pet qualify.

The Pet Fund

“The Pet Fund is a registered 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals in the United States who need veterinary care,” according to The Pet Fund’s website.

The funds are only allocated for “… non-basic, non-urgent care.” This includes care for heart disease, endocrine disease, ongoing eye problems and cancer treatment, among others.

View the application online at

Pets of the Homeless

Most organizations that provide help for pets of the homeless are also happy to help others in need. They’re worth contacting if you can’t afford food for your pet.

To find a pet food bank near you, visit Click on “Search Resources Near You,” and then enter your city or ZIP Code in the box on the new page.

Consult various pet resource directories

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) offers several directories for pet parents needing help.

Alley Cat Allies

Directory of pet foodbank locations nationwide.

PetSmart® Charities

Nationwide directory of low-cost spay and neuter clinics.