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Non-profit vet care saves lives—and money

By Eyal Lichtmann

Published 1:46 PDT, Fri August 16, 2019

While wait times and other hassles can be a problem, most Canadians are probably relatively happy with our healthcare system.

While wait times and other hassles can be a problem, most Canadians are probably relatively happy with our healthcare system. Listening to horror stories from our American cousins about how a cancer diagnosis or even a minor injury can cause bankruptcy can make us feel a bit smug about our socialized medical system.

Still, a recent study indicates that almost half of British Columbians are $200 away from insolvency—and that should raise a serious discussion about costly emergencies and preparing for the unexpected.

With so many people living on the financial knife’s edge—especially in Metro Vancouver, one of the world’s most expensive places to live—anything that can alleviate the burden of worry should be celebrated.

As an animal-serving agency, the Regional Animal Protection Society can’t do much about the macroeconomic realities of the cost of living. But we have made significant strides that could help people in Richmond and elsewhere in the region manage the unintended expenses that can accompany veterinary care.

We’ve all heard stories of astoundingly high vet bills. We’ve also probably known someone who faced the terrible choice of going into deep debt or having to say goodbye to a beloved family pet. There’s no way around it: vet care can be costly.

When we opened the RAPS Animal Hospital, in February 2018, our mission was to make vet care more affordable. We’ve done this in a number of important ways.

Because we are a not-for-profit vet hospital, our bottom line is not profit … it’s saving and improving the lives of animals. Our medical team doesn’t need to mark up the fee schedule or upsell clients on services they may not need. Our only priority is the patient’s well-being.

In addition to not striving for profit, as a charity, we are supported by donations—including incredibly generous gifts that have allowed us to purchase an in-hospital ultrasound machine and Canada’s only veterinary hyperbaric oxygen facility. Through the incredible generosity of Applewood Nissan, we have 6,000 square feet of donated space housing the hospital and our administrative offices. Trained volunteers help out with some of the maintenance and routine tasks. And we receive donated funds from foundations and individuals.

Thanks to all these factors, we are able to help people care for their animals when for-profit hospitals can’t. For example, a man with a low income in Port Alberni called all over Vancouver Island seeking assistance for his dog, Zeus, who needed surgery that was quoted at $8,600.

“He’s my everything. He’s my child,” the man told us.

He was worried he would become homeless. We were able to do the knee surgery for $3,500 and created a payment plan that was reasonable for him.

“I was able to keep my housing,” he said. “I was able to keep everything. I’d sell and give up everything to get my dog the surgery he needed. RAPS not only saved me $5,100 but allowed me to make interest-free payments over a one year period—about $200 a month. RAPS went above and beyond to accommodate my and my dog’s needs.”

When a family member is in need, cost should be the furthest thing from our minds. The RAPS Animal Hospital is trying to make that challenge a little more manageable.

Eyal Lichtmann is the executive director and CEO of the Regional Animal Protection Society.

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