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Angels For Four-Legged Friends

358 – September, 2012

By MaryBeth Gokee


Cathy Cline pictured with her Vizslas Marlo and Reba

Cathleen S. Cline, of Los Angeles, CA has owned and loved dogs since childhood. Because she shows her dogs actively, she would hear about families having a difficult time meeting medical expenses for their pets, and he knew she wanted to help out. This passion led Cline to found Friends & Vets Helping Pets, a non-profit group geared towards helping those people who can’t pay for unexpected pet medical expenses.

“I have always had a strong love for animals and helped them whenever I could,” explains Cline. “Through my connections in the dog community I would hear of families that had a pet emergency. These emergencies would force an owner to consider euthanasia because there was not enough money to meet the medical expenses necessary to save the life of their beloved pet. When I heard of these situations, I would find out the name of the family’s veterinarian and then anonymously send money to support the medical expenses for the pet.

“About eight years ago I contemplated starting a charity so more animals could be helped, but I didn’t have the time to properly run such an organization. I already have a more than full-time job,” says Cline. “This past year I was really looking into what it would take to get a charity started when I approached Brooke Folley Counts, a lawyer, a great friend, wonderful person, who is a huge animal lover, was a junior handler and is a junior’s judge, about what it would take to start and run the charity.”

Cline and Counts talked about where there was a gap in assistance. There are so many rescue organizations that are breed specific, or take in animals that have been abandoned.

“Take the Lead helps people who have medical challenges with financial support, but what about the financial support for pets in loving homes that need medical care and financial support? So many elderly don’t have the income to spend if their pet needs more than just a checkup,” Cline adds.

“We looked at who else needed the most help and the answer was good people who are working hard, but hit a rough patch. There’s no reason they should be forced between the two options of going into further debt when they are just trying to stay afloat or to have to euthanize a pet simply because of money.”

One goal of the organization is to help people with their pets; another is to give them hope. “You don’t have to give up, there are other means than just euthanasia,” says Counts. “When you get that bad news when you’re in the vet clinic, and you have that feeling of despair, we’re here. We are all pet people; we understand how hard this is, we’re here to help in those situations where you think there are no other options.”

Counts says that many horse farms in her area are faced with the same problem because of the economy. “Especially the small farms,” says Counts. “A lot of the large animal vets are doing the same thing, trying to help out when there is no money to do what needs to be done for these horses.”

This is not just an organization to help dogs. It is an organization to help families with ANY type of pet when they might need financial assistance to help with unexpected medical expenses.

“We also help with referrals to other organizations. We know how hard it is and, honestly, sometimes the best thing we can offer is an ear to listen, somebody to cry with. Technology has changed so much. It used to be that cancer in a pet meant watching your pet go downhill and losing them to an early death. Now there are so many new treatments that can help with cancer and allow the pet to live a very long, happy life.” Cline says. “People want to help. An example, I was contacted by a woman who donated two carts for dogs that were sitting unused. Great news, they are now available to help the next animal in need.”

Another goal of the charity is to allow veterinarians to volunteer their personal time to help pets, while at the same time they can get the costs for the treatment (less their own personal fee) covered. Many vets struggle between wanting to help and running a business. This charity allows vets to become involved without that monetary worry.

“In hard times, most of us lean on our pets. When dealing with a death in the family, or loss of a job, or medical challenges, our pet becomes our stress relief and helps us come out of those dark times,” Cline says. “To have to be forced to put down a pet simply because necessary treatment is too expensive is heart-breaking.”

Fortunately, Cline and Counts had a good working relationship from the start. They talked about the importance of a good Board of Directors to help them achieve their goals.

“We talked to veterinarians who told us what a large need there was for a program like this to help out those really trying to do the right thing,” says Cline. “Brooke handled all of the IRS paperwork and we put together a wonderful and knowledgeable board that consists of Dr. Robert Hutchison out of North Ridgeville, Ohio, Dr. Dana Bleifer out of Pasadena, California, and Dr. Loyde Jolly of Versailles, Kentucky. In addition, Mr. Marco Quihuis, a CPA and animal lover, who resides in California, is on the board to advise us regarding financial-related matters.”

After a lot of paperwork and business planning, the charity’s 501(3)c non-profit status has been approved.

“Now we are actively recruiting veterinarians to be part of our network and are approaching corporations and individuals looking for donations to support the charity on a going forward basis,” adds Cline. This includes small and large animal veterinarians.

“We have tried to balance getting the information that is necessary while trying to not make the process onerous for those seeking help,” Cline explains. “We see ourselves as a group of animal lovers that help people who are struggling financially get their pets the help they need.”

Just like all businesses, there are taxes to file, bills to pay, phone calls to answer, applications to process, fund raising activities, updating of websites and social media sites for the Friends & Vets Helping Pets Charity.

“I am very lucky to have Brooke Folley Counts as my full-time Executive Director. She and I collaborate on making the major decisions, however, she carries out the day-to-day business side of running a non-profit,” says Cline.

“You know, Brooke is an attorney and I’m a business person; neither of us are expert fundraisers. We don’t know what we don’t know, and we’re learning,” Cline explains. “If there are people out there that can help us work more effectively, we’d love to get their donations of time or expertise.”

“This charity needs to grow, and be organic,” Cline says.

“Maybe people can donate their knowledge, or help us with fundraising,” Counts adds.

While Cline and Counts are busy trying to spread the word to help attain volunteers, donations, and veterinarians, Cline has a strong passion to keep the charity going.

“I am committed to this charity and will do what I need to do to support it financially along with my time and energy, but I’m hoping that, over time, it will be more self-sufficient through donations. I am committed to keeping the charity a lean organization where the bulk of the money goes to helping animals instead of administrative expenses.”

F&VHP is “solely a financial-aid assistance group,” explains Cline. It can take referrals from one of its approved veterinarians or a family can apply for assistance. However, for a family to be approved, their vet has to be an approved vet through the charity. Vets can apply online by filling out a simple form to become an approved veterinarian for the charity.

“If the family meets our criteria: one that is experiencing financial hardship and is trying very hard to pay their bills and be responsible, both financially and as a pet owner, we send them a formal application where they supply evidence of income and debts,” explains Cline.

“As they complete this information, the vet supplies us with the diagnosis, the treatment plan, and the estimated cost of treatment. One of our vets reviews the medical records while we process the financial application. As long as everything checks out, they will be approved,” explain Cline and Counts.

Cline and Counts work hard to help people and vets get the needs of their pets worked out.

“We hope that everyone will contribute to the pet’s care. The owners will put in as much as they can, the veterinarian can, at the least, donate their time, and then we fill in the gap. We pay the veterinarian directly for the amount we agree to grant,” say Cline and Counts.

Every application is decided on a case-by-case basis. F&VHP encourages everyone to fill out an application for review. If they have a need, and are being responsible by living within their means, then F&VHP will look over the application.

F&VHP does not offer assistance with basic maintenance care. There are many low cost clinics that will help owners with these types of expenses. However, it is not just for emergency issues.

“We will help with anything that prevents an owner from being forced to euthanize their pet. Infections, viruses, cancer, broken bones, stitches…in other words things that come up that are extraordinary costs to an owner’s normal pet care expenses,” says Cline. “Remember the goal is to keep families and pets together when there are unexpected pet expenses that arise.”

It typically takes about three days from start to finish in a non-emergency situation.

“Obviously in emergencies we are able to contact one another via email and phone calls and can review the material quickly for a faster turnaround. Also, if the veterinarian is a trusted member of our network and can vouch that the family and pet will meet our guidelines, we can move out quickly and catch up with the paperwork later. It is more important to save the pet’s life,” Cline adds.

To keep the charity going, it takes a combined effort.

“Brooke, another board member by the name of Marco Quihius who is a CPA, and I review the financial aid applications while Drs. Hutchinson, Bleifer, and Jolly review the medical diagnosis and treatment plans for the pets. The vets also review the applications for vets wishing to join our network,” says Cline. “Right now we do not have need for additional staff; of course, volunteers to spread the word or help with fundraising are always needed!”

As with most organizations, F&VHP is always in need of monetary donations. It takes more than just this group to help support those in need.

“We encourage donors to check with their employers to see if their employer is willing to give a matching donation or a donation of their own! Also, we are looking for connections to potential corporate sponsors,” Cline says.

The group fondly remembers the first pet they helped, a mini-dachshund named Sam. He was being dumped in a parking lot when his owners rescued him only to discover his hind legs were not working. They got their net in the network, got approved and Friends & Vets Helping Pets purchased and outfitted Sam for a cart.

“We received pictures and an update on how he now likes to run around the house chasing after their granddaughter! I don’t know who was happier, Sam, his owners or Brooke and me,” Cline recalls happily.

Counts pursues this as a mission, as does Cline. “I love my job. The best part is knowing I am helping not just families, but their pets too,” says Counts. “When my daughter was born, I brought her home and put her in her bassinet. From that moment my Vizslas have not left her side. Now that she’s three, she plays chase with them, hide and seek and dresses them up as princesses…poor Bert. Because of Cathy’s vision and her generosity through Friends and Vets Helping Pets, Sam the dachshund can now be the pillow, playmate and best friend for his family’s granddaughter.”

Hopefully, with the passionate team for F&VHP, other volunteers and donators, this enthusiastic group of animal lovers can continue to spread their love and passion throughout, and give other pet friends a chance at a better life.

“I am so blessed in life and this is just a way I can give back,” says Cline.

Need Help or Want to Help:

  • Donations can be made online at www.FriendsandVetsHelpingPets.org or to mail a check directly to Friends & Vets Helping Pets at P.O. Box 910117, Lexington, KY 40591.
  • For Vets interested in applying to help out, please click on the “For Veterinarians” tab, and fill out the “To be an approved vet” form.
  • To apply for assistance, visit the web site and complete the form at the “Need Assistance” tab. Initial qualifications forms can be filled out online

Short URL: http://caninechronicle.com/?p=6417

Posted by on Sep 11 2012. Filed under Current Articles, In The Spotlight. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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