Medical vouchers give older dogs a leg up on adoption

Adoption incentives at Humane Society of Charlotte

HSC provides vouchers to offset medical costs for adopting dogs and cats.
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HSC provides vouchers to offset medical costs for adopting dogs and cats.

When Ryan and Emily Powell decided to adopt a dog, they settled on Kirk, a 3  1/2 -year-old Australian cattle dog/blue tick hound mix, named for Star Trek’s captain of the Starship Enterprise.

There was only one problem with the cosmic canine, which Captain Kirk actor William Shatner may have verbalized this way:

He. Had. Heartworm.

Though the Powells would have welcomed Kirk into the family anyway, the Humane Society of Charlotte’s offer of a $250 voucher to offset the costs of heartworm treatment made the adoption easier. The Powells could quickly get Kirk the treatment he needed.

The Humane Society of Charlotte is on pace to have another 120 adoptions this year of pets with heartworm or dental conditions.

“We found the dog we liked,” said Ryan, whose family lives in the Huntersville-area. “Kirk seemed like the best fit for us. He just happened to be heartworm positive. (HSC staff) explained to us everything that went with that, what the treatment entailed.

“They offered a $250 voucher to a couple different vets in the area. Just the fact they offered a little help with the financial aspect made it a little easier decision.”

In 2016, the Humane Society of Charlotte began offering vouchers to adopters of dogs with heartworm and dogs and cats that needed dental care; heartworm is extremely rare in cats.

Huck Nawaz, the vice president of operations at the Humane Society of Charlotte, 2700 Toomey Ave. location, says the vouchers have increased the number of adoptions of animals that are medically at-risk. HSC also has an adoption center at the Huntersville Petco on Biddick Lane.

Statistically older dogs, especially large-breed older dogs, are often times overlooked because of the cost of their care.

Huck Nawaz, Humane Society of Charlotte

In 2016, HSC staff had a goal of finding homes for 100 animals with heartworm or dental conditions. They surpassed it by 20 and this year HSC is on pace to have another 120 adoptions of the same kind.

HSC’s mission, of course, is to find homes for all dogs and cats in its care. However, it can be more impactful when an animal has certain at-risk factors such as a medical or dental condition or is of advanced years.

“It is more meaningful because statistically older dogs, especially large-breed older dogs, are often times overlooked because of the cost of their care,” said Nawaz. “So when you tack on heartworm treatment people are definitely put off by that. Those are the ones that are more at risk in our community shelters and the community in general.”

In 2016, the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) awarded HSC a $25,000 grant to support its voucher program. In 2017, the ASPCA funding was reduced to $12,500.

Loss of the some of the ASPCA income was replaced by a $7,500 grant received from the Grey Muzzle Organization, a national nonprofit based in Raleigh that funds agencies that support its mission of improving the lives of senior dogs, those 7 years and older.

When a potential adopter visits the HSC and selects a dog or cat to take home, he or she sits down with a HSC staff member who reviews the animals medical records, covering the care the pet received while in HSC care and before, if it is available. If the adopted pet is eligible for the voucher, the adopter can use it at the clinic of any one of HSC’s partner veterinarians.

On a recent Saturday, Micki and Chris Knop, visited the HSC, interested in taking home a cat to fill the void left by one that died about a month earlier. Their other cat, Ollie, a 15-year-old orange tabby, needed a new friend, they said.

The Knops found a 2  1/2 -year-old gray and white kitty the HSC received from an animal rescue shelter and named Emma Watson. HSC customer service representative April Rodgers reviewed Emma’s records, revealing some minor issues HSC handled. Fortunately, Emma and the Knops did not need a voucher.

“She seems very loving,” said Micki. “She doesn’t mind being held. She was at the animal control center before the Humane Society picked her up. She really is a rescue.

“We just wanted a cat that was friendly.”

Joe Habina is a freelance writer: joehabina@yahoo.com.