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Financing the Lifesavers

Maryland agency gets help in covering the costs of caring for injured animals

Maryland agency gets help in covering the costs of caring for injured animals

As a pet owner, you want to know that if your animal should ever get loose and be injured—heaven forbid—a good animal care and control agency would save the day by providing emergency veterinary care for your pet. But as a shelter worker or ACO, you know that caring for critically injured pets can put great financial strain on an already overburdened animal protection agency. How can a compassionate organization find a balance between providing this important service and going broke doing it?

In Rockville, Maryland, Montgomery County Animal Control has found an answer that caters to the needs of animals, pet owners, and the agency itself. The agency is frequently called upon to retrieve and care for dogs who’ve been injured while out loose, most often by cars. It was a real drain on the resources, says Tom Barnhill, licensing manager. “We decided to add an option to the forms for people coming in to get licenses for their dogs,” says Barnhill. The option allows an owner to stipulate how much he’s willing to pay should his animal have a life-threatening emergency, with choices of $200, $500, and “unlimited.”

The option has helped distribute the financial burden of caring for injured stray animals, says Barnhill, who adds that no pet is ever refused treatment. “That’s not what it’s about—the animal still receives full treatment, but the owner is only responsible for the cost they’ve agreed to pay. ... So much of our shelter’s donated funds were being used for veterinary care that we needed to recoup some of the money,” Barnhill says. “We knew most pet owners would want to help out if their pet’s life was threatened.”

With this sort of help from responsible caregivers, Montgomery County Animal Control has been able to save some of its funds to go to other efforts, and Barnhill says that folks coming to license their dogs love having the option presented. It’s a drop in the bucket, but each drop fills the bucket up a little bit higher.


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