A program of Pets Are Wonderful Support/Los Angeles – or PAWS/LA – assists veterans in need by providing veterinary care and supportive services for their companion and service animals.
The program, Petstrong, services veterans who were honorably discharged from U.S. military service, have a monthly income of $2,000 or less (200% of federal poverty levels) and are residents of Los Angeles County.
As of 2017, the Los Angeles County veteran population is estimated at 265,000. Of these veterans, approximately 61,000 are living at, or below, federal poverty levels, and 20% are diagnosed with PTSD and/or depression. Furthermore, it is estimated that 40,000 of these low-income veterans have a companion or support animal.
But for some veterans facing financial hardship, the additional expense of caring for their companion animal can be a burden they are only able to bear at a great personal price. According to the American Veterinary Association, the approximate annual expense of owning a dog or cat is $2,000. Many veterans will forgo their own basic needs in order to provide for their companion animal. In addition to the expense of their own medical treatments, they are faced with increasing costs for the care of their pets. In order to provide for their cherished companions, particularly in emergency situations, many willingly sacrifice their own medicine, food and other essential needs.
Petstrong aims to alleviate this challenge so that no veteran will ever need to sacrifice their own health and well-being. Free-of-charge services include veterinary care, a pet food bank, grooming and temporary foster care, among others.
PAWS/LA was founded in 1989 in response to the pet-related crises faced by people financially and physically debilitated by HIV/AIDS. Since its founding, the agency has grown from an organization of just two clients and two volunteers to one which now serves nearly 1,200 clients and their 2,000-plus companion animals each year.
For information, visit pawsla.org.
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