To learn more about this fund program, I interviewed Tamara Fox, the AAHA Helping Pets Fund Administrator.
Q: VetMed Guide - When was AAHA HP started, and what was the principal reason?
A: Tamara Fox - The AAHA Helping Pets Fund was officially launched as a program of the American Animal Hospital Association Foundation in April 2005. The Foundation itself was established in 1978 with the mission of improving the lives of pets. There are, of course, many ways to improve the lives of pets. Initially, Foundation efforts focused on animal health studies to improve the care of pets through advances in veterinary medicine.
The concept of a benevolent fund was proposed by a veterinarian and member of the Foundation's Board of Trustees. The proposal was inspired by this individual's acquaintance with the Farley Foundation, a benevolent fund for pets in Ontario, Canada. Our Trustees believed that a benevolent fund to help pets directly was a worthwhile cause and one that merited further discussion. A review of existing benevolent programs for pets was carried out, and in 2004, the trustees approved the establishment of a benevolent fund. The AAHA Helping Pets Fund launched in 2005.
Q: VetMed Guide - Do you have any special conditions or preferences to AAHA veterinary practices?
A: Tamara Fox - The first condition is that the veterinary practice must be AAHA-accredited in order to apply.
We fund emergency, urgent, and non-elective care. These are cases where life-saving treatment or alleviation of pain and suffering is needed. Routine checkups, vaccinations, spay/neuter and other kinds of preventive care are not eligible, nor do we fund euthanasia and/or cremation under any circumstance. Dental treatment is an area in which we reserve funds for those truly difficult treatments.
There are annual funding limits for each veterinary practice, so they often have to choose which cases can benefit the most from a grant. We feel that we are partners with the veterinary practices in this effort, rather than a source of independent funding.
Q: VetMed Guide - Do you work primarily with veterinarians, or are submissions mainly via clients who are unable to pay for their pet's care?
A: Tamara Fox - We work with AAHA-accredited veterinary practices in the U.S. and Canada to identify those instances where the Helping Pets Fund can provide funding for a pet in need. Because we are a small organization with limited resources, we work only with our accredited members. This helps ensure that we stay within our funding limits, and makes our application process simpler. Because we know our members, we don't need to ask for liability waivers, proof of veterinary licensure, proof of liability insurance, etc. as some benevolent funds require. We can focus on the needed veterinary care and provide a quick turnaround on applications. In most cases, the veterinary practices know that day whether or not they will have the grant funds. In the more complicated cases, we strive to provide a decision within 2-3 days.
Q: VetMed Guide - What are the main criteria for funding a case?
A: Tamara Fox - We look first at treatment eligibility. Again, it must be emergency or non-elective treatment to be eligible. We then look at the pet owner's eligibility. We do not review income specifically but have chosen a group of specific state and federal benefits for low income individuals to determine eligibility. This allows us to operate with a very small staff because we don't need committees for extensive review of financial information.
In very rare cases, we can approve grants for those in temporary financial hardship. This hardship must be unrelated to the veterinary expenses and must be quite significant. We also have a small amount of funding for abandoned pets and those relinquished to the veterinary practice for treatment.
Q: VetMed Guide - How do you collect funds for AAHA HP, and do you do any special events or fund raising campaigns?
A: Tamara Fox - Most of our current funding for the AAHA Helping Pets Fund comes from the veterinary profession. Although much of their charity work goes unnoticed, veterinarians are very compassionate and giving. Funding most often comes in the form of memorial donations for pets that have died, but we also receive tribute gifts and special occasion gifts. We have seen increased funding from the veterinary industry - corporate donors - since we launched, but we would like to grow this area of giving.
One of our most successful fundraising efforts has been a partnership with the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). In conjunction with National Veterinary Technician Week, NAVTA student chapters hold various events to raise money for the AAHA Helping Pets Fund and to educate others about pet issues. These efforts seem to dovetail nicely with what we and NAVTA are trying to do, and the students have a lot of fun.
We are trying to raise awareness of the Fund among the general public and increase donations from that sector. This would allow us to increase the amount of funding available and/or the types of cases in which we can help. When we started the Fund, we aimed for what we thought we could sustain, but we would love to grow.
Q: VetMed Guide - Is there anything else that you would like viewers to know about the AAHA HP fund?
A: Tamara Fox - Thanks to the generous support of AAHA members, pet lovers, and corporate donors, we've awarded approximately $1,000,000 in grants to more than 3,000 pets in need of urgent veterinary care. With additional financial support, the Foundation could help even more pets that need and deserve medical care.
Donations can be made online at www.aahahelpingpets.org or by mail: AAHA Helping Pets Fund, 12575 West Bayaud Avenue, Lakewood, CO 80228.
Thank you, Tamara Fox, for your time answering these questions about AAHA Helping Pets Fund and the work that this fund does to help veterinarians and pet lovers. Web site: AAHA Helping Pets Fund