WATCHING a dog leap high into the air after a bouncing ball or snap a thrown stick as it races along at full gallop is a sight to behold.
But the agility and speed of dogs can be their downfall.
Their bodies can be twisted in unnatural ways as they maintain eye contact with the ball and misjudging a protruding stick can lead to nasty gashes or, worse, a stabbed eye or mouth.
Dogs and other domestic animals are road trauma victims and sustain injuries in many different ways and circumstances.
While most injuries can be treated by veterinarians, the cost is not cheap. Sometimes the cost is the deciding factor in whether the animal lives or dies.
The stark reality of pet owners being placed in that position was brought home to Jennifer Hunt in 2009, when her seagull-chasing eight-year-old border collie Jed ruptured three discs in his spine at Fishermans Beach, Mornington.
Operations over the next three years cost $30,000, but enabled Jed to live another nine years, albeit with the aid of a special sling.
Although she was able to pay the bills, that experience and discussions with vets made Ms Hunt aware of the real costs of pet injuries.
One year after Jed’s spinal injuries she founded Pet Medical Crisis (PMC) to help pensioners and the disadvantaged pay their vet’s bills in urgent and emergency situations.
“We were so fortunate to be able to afford his treatment and keep Jed with us. Without funds, the only option would have been euthanasia,” Ms Hunt said.
But there are other strictly human sides to avoiding euthanising animals: the effect it can have on vets and an animal’s owners.
“The impact on vets is they have the second highest suicide rates of professionals in Australia,” Ms Hunt said. “The impact on pet owners is devastation, isolation and mental health crises.”
PMC last week helped its 1000th case. One month before that, case number 961 was able to limp out of Peninsula Vetcare, Mornington with the prospect of a full recovery.
“St Bernard Hugo Johnson was hit by a car and left on the side of the road with a broken leg. His single mum, from Tyers in eastern Victoria, was devastated and sought assistance from Pet Medical Crisis,” Ms Hunt said.
After veterinary advice from Dr Chris Franklin, Ms Hunt swung into action, sourcing the metalware needed to help Hugo from Knight Benedikt, $1500 from Knose Petcare and $1000 from PMC’s own reserves.
PMC vets pet owners to ensure they meet the criteria – including receiving Centrelink benefits – of being in “necessitous circumstances” and vets “typically discount their fees”.
“Because PMC alleviates the financial strain on disadvantaged clients, we also ensure vets get paid and the stress felt on both the owner and vet is reduced,” Ms Hunt said.
“We have been approached to assist in doing more in this space with two vets having recently suicided due to owner abuse of them.
“Vets have to kill saveable and loved pets belonging to pensioners and disadvantaged people when they don’t have funds.
“Imagine killing a dog with a broken leg while the owner pleads for their life? A therapy cat for a disability pensioner has a blocked bladder and gets put down because they don’t have enough money to pay for surgery.”
Ms Hunt said all vets could apply for money from PMC to help “a pensioner or disadvantaged person whose pet is in danger of being unnecessarily euthanised”.
“Once a plan of care is known and it is established that the owner has exhausted all avenues of funding and is in dire need of assistance, the vet is asked to reduce the cost of care to ‘at-cost’ to see if the owner is able to then proceed,” she said.
“The owner must commit to putting in as much as they are able and, if not sufficient to get their pet over the line, then PMC is consulted to see if we can assist in bridging the gap between ‘at-cost’ veterinary care and what the owner can afford.”
PMC has two employees on “modest salaries”, Ms Hunt and a partnerships manager, and relies on donations and business support. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of several money-raising events.
“However, were able to do a couple of photo-booth fundraisers before Christmas and two Bunnings barbecues in 2021 – with one at Mornington Bunnings early in 2021 breaking records,” Ms Hunt said.
First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 8 February 2022