Potter League, Audubon Society among RI animal groups receiving grants

Tough times for people and pets: Rhode Island Foundation awards $530,000 to help pets and their people

Pets also suffer when their owners fall on hard financial times, often missing out on important veterinary care such as vaccinations and annual exams.

To help address this issue, the Rhode Island Foundation on Tuesday morning is awarding $530,000 in grants to more than two dozen local animal welfare agencies, with much of the money helping to provide veterinary services for dogs, cats and other pets.

Other grants will help fund educational efforts on the humane treatment of animals, help prepare pets for adoption and help pay for rescuing seals and sea turtles.

Higher vet bills and food costs lead to a growing need for pet owners

Among its services, the Potter League for Animals operates a Pets in Need Veterinary Clinic in East Providence that provides subsidized veterinary care to low-income Rhode Islanders and veterans.

The clinic served 4,066 pets in the last fiscal year, a “significantly higher” amount than the previous year, according to the organization.

Demand for services continues to grow for many reasons, including “an increase in referrals from private veterinary practices and increasing financial pressure on pet owners,” said Brad Shear, president and CEO of the Potter League.

“The cost of pet food has gone up. The cost of veterinary care has gone up,” Shear said.

A USA Today story this spring reported that pet owners paid 14.4% more for pet food in March 2023 than in March 2022. Veterinary costs had risen about 11 percent since last summer, according to Shear.

The Potter League strives to help people manage these challenges.

“By helping those most in need, we ease the burden on pet owners, freeing them from difficult decisions about prioritizing veterinary expenses over other needs or facing the heartbreaking choice of giving up their pets due to financial constraints,” he said.

Who gets the grants?

The Potter League receives four grants for a total of $110,000, the highest total for any organization. The money will support veterinary care at the Animal Care and Adoption Center in Middletown, humane education programming in Newport County, surgeries and transportation at the Spay and Neuter Clinic in Warwick, and the purchase of medical supplies for the Pets In Need Veterinary Clinic in East Providence.

Animal Rescue Rhode Island at Peace Dale has also seen how household financial factors can affect pets. The organization provides non-routine veterinary care through the Jack’s Fund program and has seen demand double since last year.

“We attribute this to surrenders by owners of older pets who have not received a consistent vet and stray pets picked up from local municipal shelters and brought to us,” said Liz Skrobisch, executive director. “These factors, combined with the increased cost of veterinary care, make it challenging for us to provide all the non-routine care these animals need.”

The Providence Animal Rescue League will use the $55,000 grant to undertake a program, in partnership with Providence Animal Control, to provide affordable preventive veterinary care to more than 1,200 pets and families.

Rebecca Baylies, the rescue’s chief executive, said: “This addresses the challenges faced by vulnerable and underserved pet owners by offering a pay-what-you-can service. We recognize the impact of wider social issues such as the housing affordability crisis and the lack of vets in urban communities’.

“By prioritizing preventative care, the project prevents more services and costly medical issues by reducing pet surrender rates,” she said.

Educational programs also received grants. The hawks, owls, turtles and snakes in the Audubon Society of Rhode Island in Smithfield they may not realize it, but they are teachers. The organization’s Animal Ambassadors program serves approximately 22,000 children and adults annually at the Audubon Society, schools, libraries and senior centers.

“All hawks, owls, crows, turtles, snakes and frogs are either former pets or are permanently injured wildlife that cannot be released into the wild,” said Jeff Hall, executive director. “Audubon provides these creatures with a ‘forever home,’ and in turn, our animals help educate thousands of people each year about the value of wildlife and biodiversity.”

The Audubon Society receives $7,500 for food and supplies for its animal trainers.

Mystic Aquarium it may be across the Rhode Island line in Stonington, Connecticut, but about 85% of the marine animals brought to the aquarium for treatment are rescued in Rhode Island.

Marine mammals are trapped for a variety of reasons, including disease, malnutrition and entanglement in marine debris, according to Susette Tibus, president and CEO of Mystic Aquarium.

Mystic rescues stranded animals and rehabilitates them so they can be returned to the ocean. The aquarium received $15,000 to support its rescue program.

While Tuesday’s round of funding supports animal care, David Cicilline, CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, suggested the funding will benefit people as well.

“The pleasure that pets bring to our lives spills over into our own health and well-being,” she said.

Shear, of the Potter League, noted that his agency is working to keep people and their pets together despite challenges such as rising food and veterinary costs.

He said, “We think people do better with pets.”

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