BRUNSWICK — Two local seniors — and dog lovers — want more seniors to enjoy the benefits of pet companionship, but said too often the elderly are unable to experience the joys of animal ownership due to the financial burden veterinarian bills can place on them.
Christine Morris and Florence Allen, who live in a senior living facility in Brunswick, have recently began working to fix this problem for themselves as well as other seniors who struggle to pay vet bills.
“The problem is that senior citizens are … the group of people that need the pets the most because … we need companionship,” Morris said.
Morris and Allen used to own dogs, but after their pets died, the two women said that they chose not to get new pets due to the struggles they faced paying for immunizations, nail clippings and checkups for their animals.
According to Morris, this is a struggle that many seniors may face. As a result, Morris and Allen have started taking steps to combat this.
On Aug. 25, Morris mailed out 15 letters to veterinarians in Medina County explaining the desire to own pets and the struggle affording the veterinary care pets require. In the letters, Morris said pets can be good for emotional and physical health.
She also said that more seniors would own pets if taking them to the vet were cheaper.
“We asked that they do this for all senior citizens, not just for us,” said Morris.
Allen and Morris agreed that they do not want to receive veterinarian services for free; they just can’t afford local veterinarian prices.
Now, nearly a month later, Morris and Allen said they have yet to hear back from any of the local doctors. The two are now ready to take other steps as a result from the lack of response.
“We’re not finished yet,” Morris said.
She said that the next step would be to contact the AARP to see if they would help support the cause.
“I believe that there would be less pets in the dog pound if our veterinarians would work with us so that we can keep our pets,” said Allen.
Local veterinarians and animal clinics did not return calls for comment.
The Animal and Avian Medical Center is one of few veterinary clinics that provide discounts to seniors in the area. The Brunswick clinic offers a 10-percent discount to seniors. Also, during February, It offers $20 or 10 percent off a pet’s dental bill for all customers.
However, one veterinary clinic is not enough to support the senior population in the county, they said.
Allen said that in Florida, where she previously lived, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association works to help provide discounts to seniors in the state.
“If other states can do it, why can’t we?” Allen asked.
The Ohio Veterinary Medical Association works with veterinarians here. This organization is a nonprofit and is not a state entity.
“We provide continuing education for veterinarians, so they can maintain the highest level of standards of care for animals,” executive director Jack Advent said.
Advent said the organization encourages its members, which are in 87 of the 88 counties in Ohio, to support their communities and create programs that may help their customers.
However, Advent said that “we don’t have any guidelines … where we tell people, ‘You should do X, Y, Z.”
The Cleveland Animal Protective League could be another option for seniors to explore, but it is limited to whom they can help, said to Carmen Rey, communications and social media coordinator for the APL.
“The only thing that we have here at the APL is our Project Care program, which is specifically for people in the city of Cleveland who are on government assistance,” said Rey. “Currently, our veterinarians only help our animals who are here at the shelter. We don’t have the capability to help many public animals.”
Those interested in helping local seniors can contact Christine Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org