Pet owners who live in rural South Carolina sometimes have difficulty getting their pets to the veterinarian for care. So the Charleston Animal Society is taking the pet care to them.
Thanks to a $750,000 grant from the Watershed Animal Fund, the society’s Helping Hands for Rural Paws is providing a mobile health clinic throughout rural Charleston County. The animal society says it is the largest grant for animal welfare in South Carolina history.
“It’s about bringing accessible and affordable veterinary care to the rural communities,” Senior Director for Animal Cruelty and Outreach Aldwin Roman said. “There’s a big need and a desire for veterinary care. In many of these areas, there is little to no access.”
For example, on Edisto Island, the closest veterinarian’s office is 34 miles away.
“We wanted to solve these two problems with accessibility and affordability,” Roman said. “So, while many people do not have transportation or have limited transportation, getting transportation for their pets is a whole different thing. And then the affordability of it, you have two, three, four, five animals, you’ve got to pick and choose who has veterinary care.”
Roman said Helping Hands will visit a community on a given Saturday and offer free animal vaccinations and care. The idea is that those in the area can get a 10-15 minute free visit with a vet.
“We wanted to remove as many obstacles as possible and bring services directly to the communities that need it and want it,” Roman said. “Not saying that they can’t take care of animals or don’t know how to. They want it, they just don’t have access to it.”
Pet owners can sign up for spay-neuter clinics and receive walk-in services at the mobile sites.
“[We’ve been] hearing a lot of things like, ‘I’ve been really wanting to take my dog to the vet but . . . I just couldn’t afford it because I have too many’ or ‘I couldn’t get transportation and I couldn’t get there,’ or ‘it’s too expensive and I can’t afford it,'” Roman said.
In the first three events, they provided veterinary services to 246 pets from 149 families, treated 178 dogs and 68 cats, performed 88 spays and neuters, administered 312 vaccinations and 609 other services, including exams, flea treatment, deworming and microchips.
The program is part of Charleston Animal Society’s mission to eventually make South Carolina a no-kill state. Roman said traditionally, shelters are reactive organizations, but a proactive program like this keeps animals out of shelters.
“What can we do to get out in the community and provide services and support that might help keep these pets in their homes?” he said.
Many times owners surrender their pets because they cannot afford to keep them, so Helping Hands is trying to prevent abandonment.
“Shelters should be for animals in most need,” he said. “The goal should be to really be addressing serious animal problems and helping owners keep their pets.”
Eventually, the goal is to expand the program throughout the Lowcountry and, eventually, the entire state. Roman said this is the first program of its kind in the country.
“We hope after three years to show that it’s a proven model,” he said. “That it works. That it could be sustained with help from the greater community and that there is a need and a great response from those that we are trying to help.”
Click here for a link to the Charleston Animal Society. For more information on the program, call Roman at 843-329-1545.