(Air1 Closer Look)- A beloved dog or cat is part of your family – and for the elderly or disabled, a pet may be their closest companion. What if that animal becomes sick or injured? Expensive vet bills can force a heartbreaking choice. “The tragedy is that a lot of these pets are surrendered to a shelter -- or they are euthanized – because their family cannot afford their medical care,” says Carla Isenberg, program manager at For The Love Of Alex. “We are trying to help those who are financially unable to help their pet.”
Pet owners can apply for assistance online and must provide proof of income. They must also allow FTLOA to communicate directly with attending veterinarians. The charity ensures honest use of the funds by rendering payment for treatment directly to the vet clinic, pet pharmacies or Rx food distributors. On average they provide about $2,500 per cat while dog care typically ranges $4,000-$5,000. They are currently able to supply funds only for dogs and cats but qualifying medical care does not have to be an emergency. “We take a variety of cases – they could be hit by a car, or could be a cat that’s just losing weight and they’re not sure what’s going on.”
For The Love Of Alex was born in 2013. FTLOA founder Elizabeth Hedges named the charity for her beloved cat, Alex who fell ill with bladder stones and needed surgery. Hedges could personally afford the treatment but Alex’s life-threatening emergency caused her to realize many people cannot afford expensive vet bills. “We are a unique non-profit in that we help pets and people,” Isenberg says. Hedges put in $80K of her own money to launch the charity and ran it alone until her death in 2018. Her friends have since taken up the cause, continuing to raise private donations that pay vet bills nationwide.
For The Love Of Alex has many success stories, like the wheelchair-bound woman from Missouri whose tiny kitten got caught behind her wheels but made a full recovery. Or Dolly, the 18-month old black lab in California with a spiral break in her leg. The 19-yr old raising her four siblings alone desperately wanted to save the family dog. “I couldn’t imagine them having to euthanize her or surrender her to a shelter just for broken back leg – because they couldn’t afford it.”
Isenberg says the gratitude of the families is always heartwarming and routinely underscores a core value of For The Love Of Alex: “we help pets -- but we also help people.”