A shiny new car. A diamond ring. An original painting by a renowned artist. Pricey but cherished possessions, right? However, for many of us, the most priceless asset we have wags a tail or purrs steadily.
Scientific studies reinforce what many of us already know: Pets are good for our health and outlook on life. But no matter how you got your pet — from a shelter, a breed rescue group, a responsible breeder or found wandering on the streets, keep this in mind: There is no such thing as a free pet.
Even if you did not pay to adopt, you are paying for veterinary care, food, bedding, toys, treats and more. In fact, it costs more than $1,000 annually per pet to provide basic care, according to a study conducted by the ASPCA.
That amount does not include the unexpected hits to your wallet: an expensive dental procedure or surgery to mend an injured leg or installing a fence in your backyard to keep your roaming dog at home.
People who love their pets come from all socioeconomic levels. But tragically, people who become suddenly jobless or on tight household budgets sometimes have to surrender their beloved pets to a shelter. Or worse, some must make the gut-wrenching decision to have their pets “economically euthanized” at veterinary clinics simply because they lack the funds to pay for medical expenses.
But now there is some added assistance for people in South Florida. Last month, Tri-County Animal Rescue celebrated the new Lois Pope Pet Clinic, set to open sometime in July, on its grounds in Boca Raton. This $5 million clinic contains much-needed staff (one veterinarian and four veterinary technicians per shift to provide veterinary and dental care) and equipment inside its 9,000 square feet. It features an ultrasound machine, surgical areas, a lab, isolation areas, outdoor runs and fenced-in play yards. Soon it will have an MRI machine donated by American Humane.
This new clinic will enable Tri-County Animal Rescue to provide spay/neuter surgeries and other needed care on site for the dogs and cats housed at the shelter. There will be less of a need to transport these shelter animals to outside veterinary clinics in the area. Second, it will offer reduced veterinary rates exclusively to pet owners with low incomes. Individuals just need to bring proof of income. This is the first time that Tri-County has arranged to offer discounted rates to low-income people.
“We are thrilled because the Lois Pope Pet Clinic can help us save thousands more dogs and cats and help those who cannot afford the care to keep their pets alive,” says Suzi Goldsmith, co-founder and executive director of Tri-County Animal Rescue. “Plus, the new building is 100 percent hurricane-proof. If a storm is approaching, we can move all of our animals in there.”
The lead financial backer to build this clinic is renowned philanthropist Lois Pope. A resident of Manalapan, Pope is a lifelong animal advocate who has adopted many dogs and cats, including five dogs from Tri-County.
“I’m fortunate that I can afford the best health care for my pets, but there are thousands of low-income families in the tri-county region who have pets, but who do not have the financial resources to provide them with medicine or shots, or even take them to a veterinarian,” says Pope. “In many cases, the families give up their dogs and cats to shelters, or worse, just abandon them. So, when Suzi Goldsmith approached me about helping to establish this new state-of-the-art veterinary clinic specifically focused on providing low-cost or free health care for pets in low-income families, I knew that it was the right thing, and the most humane thing to do.”
Goldsmith and Pope met more than three decades ago at a theatrical production in Manalapan, and in the words of Pope have been “soul sisters” ever since. They even arrange play dates for their own pets.
“We are soul sisters when it comes to the welfare and well-being of animals,” says Pope. “So, whenever she has come to me for help with a Tri-County need, I always say yes.”
Adds Goldsmith, “Both of us share a passion for animals. My dogs ... get along well with all of Mrs. Pope’s dogs.”
Tri-County is a no-kill, nonprofit animal shelter that serves Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Since 1996, Tri-County has adopted thousands of companion animals and saved more than 64,000 domestic animals from being euthanized by placing them in homes through its adoption center.
The Lois Pope Pet Clinic is at 21287 Boca Rio Road, Boca Raton, on the Tri-County Animal Rescue campus. Hours of operation are to be determined. Call Tri-County's main number at 482-8110.
Learn more at https://tricountyanimalrescue.com.
Learn more about animal behavior consultant Arden Moore at www.ardenmoore.com.