By Tia Lynn Lecorchick staff writer

The Banfield Charitable Trust, a non-profit group aiming to end pet homelessness, has given a $7500 grant to the Morgan County Humane Society to assist low-income pet owners with veterinary care costs.

The grant is part of the shared vision of the Banfield Charitable Trust and the Humane Society to “keep families and the pets they love together,” according to Belinda Bell, the director of the Morgan County Humane Society.

“The Humane Society of Morgan County is excited to be able to provide such an amazing program to help keep families together.  Pets are a vitally important to many people that struggle with the costs of keeping them healthy, and we are excited to be able to help keep them together.  We could of course not even begin to provide such a program if not for the generosity of the Banfield Charitable Trust and the veterinarians willing to participate in this program,” said Bell.

“Providing basic annual care to pets can be difficult for those on fixed and low incomes to afford, often resulting in pets being surrendered to animal shelters,” said Bell.

According to the Humane Society Press Release, “Certificates are granted to individuals and families based on federal low income criteria and may be used for one or two pets and up to $300 per pet for all medical purposes excluding spay or neuter surgery. This grant runs to funds are extinguished, or until Mid-November of 2014.”

The annual grant is on a “use it or lose it” structure. If the the Humane Society is to receive this grant again next year, and possibly become eligible for the full $10,000 grant, all funds from this year’s grant must be used up by November deadline.

Bell believes this grant will help many struggling pet owners keep their pets and provide adequate care for them. “This is effort to keep people from having to surrender their pets to animal controls and humane societies simply because they could not afford their veterinary care.  Many pet owners worry about not being able to give their pets proper veterinary care and consider releasing them into someone else’s care as a solution.  Studies have found that when there is a decline in the economy, there is also a decline in the number of households that have pets.  Additionally, these studies have found a decrease  in the number of annual veterinary visits by households that do have pets,” explained Bell.

Recipients of this grant will be able to obtain a wide variety of health services for their pets.

“We would like for people to know that it is available to those in serious need.  We think it’s vitally important for people to be able to keep the pets they love, but it is also important that these pets receive the medical care necessary to keep them healthy.  While the rabies vaccination is required by law, other annual vaccinations, de wormings and testing are also necessary to keep their pets, family members and even other animals healthy and safe,” said Bell.

Qualifying recipients must meet certain criteria to receive certificates for veterinary care.

“Persons receiving the grant must qualify based on their low income status after completing an application that is available at the HSMC.    Federal and state poverty levels are used as a guideline.  Additionally, anyone with a current EBIT card automatically qualifies.   They must be a resident of Morgan, Green or Putnam County and must be able to provide a valid ID.    They must also use the certificates at one of the participating veterinarians…The certificates may only be used on two pets per household for one visit each and up to the amount of $300 or $500 in the event of an emergency that is deemed life-threatening by the doctor.  These certificates exclude spays and neuters, but cover all other medical issues.  Persons receiving certificates are also asked to assist by covering some cost   and are required to assist above the allotted certificate amounts,” explained Bell.

To apply for this program, applications are available at the Morgan County Humane Society, located at 1170 Fairground Road in Madison.

The certificates can be redeemed at participating animal hospitals and clinics: Main Street Veterinary Hospital in Madison, Madison Veterinary Clinic in Madison, Durham Veterinary Clinic in Greensboro, Country Side Veterinary in Covington, Union Point Pet Wellness Clinic in Union Point and Park Place Animal Hospital in Greensboro.