Two-thirds of U.S. households now include pets, but 50 million of those pets are not getting basic veterinary care. Lack of access to veterinary care in the U.S. is disproportionately experienced in communities where there may also be a lack of access to health care and other social services. The national shortage of veterinarians adds to the complexity of accessing pet care in historically excluded communities. To help address this issue, PetSmart Charities®, the leading funder of animal welfare in the U.S., has launched an innovative grant program to support the unique needs of communities by leveraging local insights.
Social determinants of health, or the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn and work affect their quality of life. When a lack of access to food, housing, transportation and education impacts pet parents, it is likely the same will be true for access to veterinary care for the pets in that community. We know these social factors often lead to inequities.
PetSmart Charities’ program includes several grant phases. The first set of grants has been awarded to 10 Latinx communities in the U.S. to help inform and co-create programs and solutions that address each area’s unique needs. Through funding from PetSmart Charities, grantees will host listening sessions and other engagements to understand needs and which barriers are the greatest to accessing vet care in each community, including financial, language, proximity and other issues.
The 10 communities participating in the first phase of the grant program are: Asheville, North Carolina; Douglas, Arizona; Hall County, Georgia; Laredo, Texas; Napa and Oceano, California; South Detroit, Michigan; Seattle and South Seattle, Washington; South Phoenix, Arizona.
Access to Veterinary Care is a Health Equity Issue
“We believe that every family should be able to benefit from the love of pets — and that all pets should have access to adequate veterinary care,” said Aimee Gilbreath, president of PetSmart Charities. “Pet ownership should not be a luxury or privilege, and all communities need the expertise of veterinary practitioners. We’re so excited about the potential of this program to increase access to culturally sensitive care that meets the needs of the Latinx populations in each of these 10 communities.”
According to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, 61 percent of Latinx households include pets*. This first grant phase is focused on building relationships with members of each of the 10 communities to better understand the unique needs of each to better support pet health. The second grant phase for this cohort begins in 2024 and will leverage the learnings from the first grant phase to support increased access to veterinary care in each community.
“This grant is supporting critical work we recently launched in a community on the Arizona/Mexico border we know needs better support with veterinary services,” said Steve Farley, CEO of the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, one of the program grant recipients. “Many families in this community have pets they love like family, but vet care is scarce. Additionally, the poverty rate is high, and human services are also lacking, so there’s a tremendous opportunity to do good here for people through their pets. This grant has helped us start conversations with community members directly and discover what services they need. Local communities are so rarely asked for their perspective, and the response has been amazing so far. This unique approach is a visionary one, and we’re grateful for it.”
Multi-Pronged Approach to Improving Access to Veterinary Care
These grants are just one component of PetSmart Charities’ $100 million commitment, over five years, to improve access to veterinary care across the U.S. This commitment will tackle many challenges that contribute to this issue including the veterinary shortage, regulatory challenges, a lack of affordable care and/or payment models, and more.
PetSmart Charities estimates it would cost more than $20 billion annually to bridge the gap for pets in need of veterinary care under the current system, based on a research study performed of average pet care costs and gaps in care. To help lead the charge, the nonprofit is taking a leadership role in marshaling partners and stakeholders to develop and execute solutions to solving the gap in veterinary care access, including grant programs such as this one.
For more information on how PetSmart Charities is working to expand access to veterinary care nationwide or to help support initiatives like this for pets and their families, visit petsmartcharities.org.
About PetSmart Charities®
PetSmart Charities is committed to making the world a better place for pets and all who love them. Through its in-store adoption program in all PetSmart® stores across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, PetSmart Charities helps up to 400,000 pets connect with loving families each year. PetSmart Charities also provides grant funding to support organizations that advocate and care for the well-being of all pets and their families. PetSmart Charities grants and efforts connect pets with loving homes through adoption, improve access to affordable veterinary care and support families in times of crises with access to food, shelter and disaster response. Each year, millions of generous supporters help pets in need by donating to PetSmart Charities directly at PetSmartCharities.org, while shopping at PetSmart.com, and by using the PIN pads at checkout registers inside PetSmart® stores. In turn, PetSmart Charities efficiently uses more than 90 cents of every dollar donated to fulfill its role as the leading funder of animal welfare in North America, granting more than $500 million since its inception in 1994. Independent from PetSmart LLC, PetSmart Charities is a 501(c)(3) organization that has received the Four-Star Rating from Charity Navigator for the past 18 years in a row – placing it among the top one percent of rated charities. To learn more visit www.petsmartcharities.org.
Régine Labossière, Carmichael Lynch Relate
24-hour media at PetSmart and PetSmart Charities: MediaRelations@petsmart.com
*Data from AAVMC.