Animal protection has changed drastically in the last ten years. What was once a primarily reactive approach to stray and unwanted animals has evolved into a proactive model where intervention strategies strive to prevent pets from being separated from their families in the first place. This has had a tremendous positive impact in maintaining the human-animal bond and redefining the role of animal shelters in the community.

Traditionally, animal shelters, including the DACC, responded to the plight of homeless animals by taking them in and doing everything possible to reunite lost pets with their owners or place homeless pets with new families. This was a reactive approach where we did our best to address needs after they arose. However, the overwhelming number of animals featured in this model strained limited resources and created greater obstacles to overcome.

A better approach has been implemented at DACC and many other animal welfare agencies in the nation. By providing intervention and support services before an animal is released, DACC helps keep pets and their families together. This has resulted in win-win situations: the family keeps the pet it wants to keep but doesn’t have the resources to manage it, the pet stays with the family it loves and is close to, and DACC gets to use its resources limited to focus on pets with no other options.

The most common reason pet parents approach DACC to surrender their pets is because they cannot afford veterinary expenses. They love and want to keep their animal, but it needs a medical procedure that they cannot afford. Pet parents don’t want to see their pet without necessary medical attention, so they make the heartbreaking decision to release the pet for the care it needs.

However, thanks to the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation, DACC provides care vouchers that can be used for up to $500 in veterinary expenses. This resource helps pet owners get the medical care they need for their animals and keep pets with the family they know and love. I regularly review the bills for these services, and it is striking how hard families work to find all possible solutions for their animal. Many of the medical expenses are over $500 and I see on the bills that the person makes up the difference with cash payments and/or Care Credit to offset the remaining costs.

These are necessary medical procedures: dental work, removal of abscesses, ear infections, fracture repair, and more. All are painful or threaten the long-term health and well-being of the animals. The unique solution solves the problem and another family and pet continue their loving relationship. Care vouchers can also be used to help with pet food, fence repair, training, temporary housing for homeless pet owners, or other challenges pet owners have in maintaining their pets. .

The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports the animals cared for by DACC. The Care voucher program is supported by private donations and grants. Your main benefactor of Cares Vouchers is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which recognizes and supports the need to help in this important area. DACC and the Foundation are grateful for your continued partnership.

Some people think that others shouldn’t have pets if they can’t afford them. Certainly the long-term costs of raising pets need to be factored in before a person gets a pet. However, the pet owners who come to us for help have been caring responsibly for their animals for years, but now they are struggling financially. With the rising costs of goods and services, the dollar doesn’t go as far, and people are forced to make decisions they never thought they would have to make. Helping them during this time benefits pet owners, their beloved pets, and DACC.

When I think about providing care vouchers, I am reminded of two very different cases I had early in my career as an animal cruelty investigator. One involved a complaint from a purebred Irish setter that was kept in a cage for most of the day. He was owned by a very wealthy family that lived in a gated community. The complainant’s housekeeper had to go through the security gate. The owner wasn’t home so I left a note for him to call me. She did and she chided me for checking on her dog and she refused to let me see the dog. Because there was no indication of abuse or neglect, just a timid approach to caring for a pet, I couldn’t go through with this (this was also in Texas in the mid-1980s, with different laws than we now have in California).

I then responded to a call from another dog, claiming that he was not getting the care he needed. I came to a very low-income neighborhood and walked up to the house that was in dire need of new paint. A faded and worn couch was on the front porch, and the yard was neglected. I met the pet father of the senior German Shepherd who lived there. His love for his animal was abundant. He showed me all the medications he had to keep his dog comfortable. He was well cared for and was the greatest source of love and joy to him. He was forgoing any home repairs or other niceties so his dog could have everything he needed. I left knowing that the dog was in the best possible place and he didn’t need my help.

When I see Care vouchers helping pet owners today, I always think of this wonderful woman and her dog. I know that we are helping equally loving pet owners and the pets that are devoted to them.

To contribute to the Care voucher program, make a donation on the website.