How can veterinarians and rescues help owners who can’t afford some aspects of health care but want to do the best for their equines? One answer may be the ASPCA Vet Direct Safety Net Program.
As we know, a lack of access to affordable veterinary care is often cited as the cause of poor equine welfare and owner relinquishment. To help address that need, in 2018 the ASPCA's Equine Welfare department began piloting Vet Direct, a program that empowers equine veterinarians to locate and provide care to at-risk equines in their communities.
Veterinarians are supported for providing services for practical issues such as lameness, dental needs, lacerations, non-surgical colic and euthanasia. The focus for this work is on practical medicine with a total cap for services per horse set at $700, and owners are also asked to pay for a portion of the care.
A lack of access to affordable veterinary care is often cited as the cause of poor equine welfare and owner relinquishment.
PRELIMINARY PILOT RESULTS
To date, the program has served more than 50 horses with the assistance of 10 veterinarians, at an average total cost of $450 per horse. Clients have contributed approximately 27% of the total cost of care for the horses in the program.
Of the animals who received care, 58% are still in their original home. For the remaining 42%, euthanasia and disposal was the most humane treatment option.
Many equines served by the Vet Direct program have special circumstances that put them at risk. Anjisun, for example, developed colic at the same time his owners were experiencing serious medical issues of their own and couldn’t afford to care for his treatment.
After receiving basic care from a Vet Direct partner veterinarian, he made a full recovery and is still in his home.
Dusty had a severe case of navicular disease while one of his owners was in hospice care. After careful consideration, the family and a Vet Direct veterinarian decided the best option for Dusty was euthanasia.
The family says this support lifted a huge financial and emotional burden from them and prevented Dusty from suffering further.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Veterinarians: Currently, there are 16 Vet Direct veterinary providers in 11 states. The ASPCA intends to recruit additional veterinarians who are excited about finding truly at-risk horses in their communities and providing practical medicine to these unserved horses.
Shelters/Rescues: This program is intended to be a tool aimed to keep equines out of rescue when retention in the home is best for the individual horse. If your shelter or rescue receives a high volume of calls of individuals looking for help, and you have a veterinarian in your community interested in working with underserved individuals, please contact us to learn more. Early feedback from the program suggests it may be best to rehome some horses served by Vet Direct, making partnerships with adoption centers even more important.
Owners: Individual equine owners whose animals might benefit from basic veterinary care can reach out to the ASPCA to learn if a Vet Direct Veterinarian may be available in your area.
Interested veterinarians, rescues and individuals who want to learn more about Vet Direct should email EquineWelfare@aspca.org.