Sunday, November 8, 2009

A parallel world

The current national health care bill debate includes story after story of people who can’t afford the medical treatment they need. They have responded to requests to tell their stories, adding weight to the push for health care reform.

But animals – non-human animals, that is – can’t tell their own stories about needed health care that is too expensive for their people to handle. They often miss out on the medical treatments that could make them well because the cost is prohibitive.

Then what? Well, it can go the way of an area artist whose dog was diagnosed with heartworms. The artist could not afford the cost of dealing with the condition, and the dog eventually died.

Or, it can come to the attention of the Animal Protection League of NJ (formerly NJ Animal Rights Alliance) – which gives the animal a fighting chance. APLNJ invites caring people to contribute to its Veterinarian Bill Assistance Program (VBAP) which since 1990 has helped animals who need medical interventions when their families can’t afford to pay for them.

APLNJ’s programs director Janine Motta tells about one such case:

"We just helped a cat named "Brooklyn." I got a call from his "mom" today, telling me that we saved his life. He was in acute kidney failure. Her vet wouldn't allow her to pay over time - even though she has been to him for years.

"I suggested she try another vet, and she did. They were very kind, the bill was much lower than it would have been at the other place and Brooklyn is now home after a 3-day stay at the vet’s and visibly improving.

"These types of calls can be very emotionally draining, long and involved because we don't just give money. We talk to the caller, sometimes offering our own experiences to help them decide what is best for their animal -- are certain diagnostics really necessary, can they do things (such as fluids) at home themselves, etc. We often suggest going to a vet we work with to help reduce the cost. That sometimes gives enough of a financial break that they can then afford the treatment."

To donate to this APLNJ program, go to and put VBAP in the comment section. Or, send a check payable to APLNJ, to PO Box 174, Englishtown, NJ 07726 (put VBAP in the memo). Find out more about the program via

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