RIVMA voucher program sees dramatic uptick of people needing assistance

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association’s Companion Animal Foundation has seen a major increase in the number of people seeking financial assistance to care for their pets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation’s voucher program, which offers $200 vouchers to low-income pet owners to pay for various veterinary needs, is expected to serve more than 300 pets in 2020, about 33% more than what the foundation normally sees in a given year.

Elizabeth Suever, board president of the Companion Animal Foundation and an attorney for Providence-based law firm Adler Pollock & Sheehan PC, told Providence Business News May 4 that the need for veterinary care usually increases in the summertime because of tick season. However, Suever said the foundation saw increased need for vouchers earlier in the year.

In April, the foundation received 78 applications for vouchers compared with 33 applications in April 2019 – a 136% increase – Suever said, and 30 in April 2018.

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Dr. Charles Schor, RIVMA board member and veterinarian for Westport-based Acoaxet Veterinary Clinic, said the uptick creates a “double-edged sword” because the organization relies on fundraising and with those events not allowable, revenue is decreasing as individuals’ needs increase.

“There’s a lot more people that are obviously out of work and have financial need than there ever was before,” Schor said, also noting it’s currently a “work in progress” to obtain additional funding to support the foundation and the needs of those applying for the program.

Suever said the foundation is sending out mailers seeking donations to support the program, as some events are either on hold or at risk of being on hold due to the pandemic.

“Our traditional fundraising has been put on hold, as we don’t want to put anyone at risk,” Suever said. “We usually have a big golf event that happens every September, but I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that.”

Individuals can apply for the program, as well as offer donations, by visiting the foundation’s website.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.