Kalamazoo Humane Society hosted a veterinary clinic on May 15, 2023.
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Pet owners in southwest Michigan who are struggling to pay for animal care now have a choice, thanks to a group of local volunteers.
On May 8, the Kalamazoo Humane Society launched VetReach Kalamazooa grant-funded veterinary outreach program for pet owners who are homeless, low-income, or live in the highest-risk neighborhoods.
The program offers free wellness clinics and vaccinations, low-cost spay, neuter and humane euthanasia, and safe boarding for pets of survivors of domestic violence. At the May 15 clinic, so many showed up that VetReach had to switch venues to the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market, where some waited for hours.
Kalamazoo Humane Society Executive Director Aaron Winters said the high demand shows just how critical this lifeline is needed locally.
“They’re just trying to get by each day, but they consider their pets like a member of the family,” Winters explained. “Not getting vaccinated and having an animal get sick is, for most people in a situation like the one we are in here, it can be a death sentence for animals. Because they can’t afford the treatment. It is easier to provide prevention than treatment. That’s when we saw a great need.”
A couple of owners who brought their pets to the clinic, including Randi Zuverink, told News 8 that the program is a blessing.
“Both my husband and I are disabled and have a son with kidney disease, so most of our money goes towards health care expenses. This is a true lifesaver. I would not have been able to vaccinate or cure my cats.”
Zuverink also takes care of some stray dogs in her neighborhood, including a cat that needed serious medical attention at the clinic. She hopes that the clinic’s treatment will help her find a home.
“I look forward to trying to find an adoptive family,” Zuverink said. “If I could take her, I would. There may still be a chance that I can convince my husband, but probably not.”
“A lot of people would look at you and say, ‘Why the hell would you take an animal if you really can’t afford it?’” said Debra Myland, who brought a 5-week-old puppy to the clinic. “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
With that attitude, Myland wanted to help her daughter, a single mother of two who worked third shift in Kalamazoo, when it came to the newest addition to her family.
“When we found out that this project was underway, we thought it was an excellent opportunity to make sure the pup is healthy and has a good life ahead of it,” Myland said.
Both say that this program is peace of mind both for their pockets and for their lifelong friends.
“To see all these people come out, it’s heartwarming to know that we have a community that wants to help these animals and all the time from the volunteers,” Zuverink said. “(I’m) just grateful for that.”
According to the Kalamazoo Humane Society, more than 80 pets were treated Monday. Up to 75 owners had to be turned away, but will be contacted about a place in a future clinic.
The nonprofit organization said they desperately need volunteers, veterinarians, technicians and assistants to reach their goal of running at least one clinic each month. If you or someone you know is interested, please email your outreach coordinator at [email protected].