If you had extra money on hand, how would you spend it? Brown Dog Foundation saves sick family pets with grants they award to owners in need. The group has been “bridging the gap between the cost of medical care and saving the family pet” since 2006. Here are their requirements and the application process.
I was introduced to Brown Dog Foundation while writing one of our most popular posts, When Pet Owners Can’t Afford Veterinary Bills. It gives pet parents a comprehensive list of organizations in the US and Canada that offer financial aid for sick and injured family pets. A few of these agencies are operated by large charities, but the majority are small groups that were formed by animal lovers who want to help. They work with a big heart and a limited budget.
Carol Smock is the founder of Brown Dog Foundation. She recently shared how her group works to save pets with life-threatening illnesses.
How Brown Dog Foundation got its start
In October 2006 Carol Smock and her friends Laura Richards, Laura Parker-Hawes, Kristy Carroll-Grimes and Melissa Blankenship founded Brown Dog Foundation in memory of Carol’s dog Chocolate Chip.
Carol adopted the Labrador retriever in 2000 after reading he had been surrendered to a city shelter with a mast cell tumor under his arm. A rescue group came to his aid and paid for his surgery.
Life was good for Chocolate Chip and his adopted brother Toffee Nut for the next six years. Then Carol noticed a lump on Chip’s leg. Her veterinarian thought it was a benign growth, but recommended Chip have surgery to remove it due to his medical history. Carol was unemployed at the time so she was forced to postpone the surgery
A month later Chocolate Chip woke up feeling very sick. A chest x-ray showed he had cancer in his stomach and his heart. The dog was put on chemotherapy, but Carol worried if she could afford to continue the treatment. On Sunday, May 14, 2006 Chocolate Chip passed away.
As a result of this heartbreaking experience, Carol, her friends and her sister created Brown Dog Foundation. Their goal was to provide funds to families who find themselves in a similar situation. They wanted to help sick pets that would respond to treatment, if their owners could afford to make it happen.
Carol did not want pet owners to feel guilty when they can’t afford veterinary care for their animals.
To date, Brown Dog has assisted 1,068 families. Their programs offer financial aid and medical guidance.
The criteria for awarding grants
Brown Dog Foundation receives more than 4,000 requests for aid each year. Their budget doesn’t allow them to help everyone so they came up with strict policies for grants. (I found this to be true for other small nonprofits as well.)
The group’s ideal candidate is a family pet who is “going to expire without medical intervention.” These are pets with life-threatening problems that require medication or treatment to make them well.
Brown Dog Foundation asks families to:
- Show proof the animal is a family pet.
- Apply for aid for a new medical treatment. Brown Dog is not able to pay outstanding veterinary bills.
- Fully complete the assistance application. An incomplete application receives an automatic NO for financial aid.
The application process
Carol explained applications are sent through an automated system that checks to see it fits the Brown Dog guidelines. Those that do not meet the criteria receive an automatic No. (An automatic denial can also mean that Brown Dog does not have funds available at the time.)
Grants are awarded for applicants falling into 3 financial categories:
- Up to 300% of the poverty level
- Working, but temporarily disadvantaged
The personal touch
Carol personally reviews each application that meets the guidelines and talks with the veterinarian who will be treating the pet. Owners typically get a final answer within 3-5 days, although Carol has been known to award a grant in one day for emergency situations.
Later Carol reviews applications that received an automatic No. She offers guidance to owners by making medical recommendations or helping them set up payment plans with their veterinarian. She even talks with vets about alternative care. Carol tries everything imaginable to get treatment for these animals. She understands that people are in a state of crisis when they contact her and that good ideas for a resolution might get overlooked.
The challenge of raising enough donations every year
The maximum grant awarded by Brown Dog is $2,000, but the average gift is closer to $500. This is based on their annual budget and how much money they are able to raise. Like other small nonprofits, Brown Dog Foundation has to continually raise funds to meet the needs of the pets they serve.
Brown Dog’s goal is to raise $40,000 each year, but some years their budget has been down to $20,000. The group is constantly on the lookout for ways to increase donations. They need $4-5 million on hand in order to help their 4,000 annual applications. It is a tough road to keep the donations coming in year-after-year.
How you can help
If your dog or cat is healthy, you can pay it forward for another pet in need. Brown Dog Foundation accepts donations or you can join one of their VIP card program. Donors can also sponsor a family in need or contribute an item to their Wish List. There are lots of ways to support Brown Dog Foundation.
The plight of small nonprofit groups
The advances of veterinary care saves thousands of sick pets each year, but the treatments can be expensive. Thankfully there are organizations like Brown Dog whose sole purpose is to help pets receive the care they need.
While these nonprofits have big hearts, their funds are limited. Unfortunately, they are not able to help everyone who asks for aid.
Lucky’s success story
I want to end this story on a happy note about a dog named Lucky. It shows how the Brown Dog works behind the scenes to help.
Lucky and the young woman who adopted him moved to Tennessee after they lost their home in a Florida hurricane. Lucky developed a lump on his snout. It made it hard to breathe and eat. The lump was diagnosed as aggressive form of cancer. Brown Dog contacted the veterinary specialist who was going to treat Lucky. They worked out a discount for the fee. The young woman paid what she could and Brown Dog filled the gap by paying for the difference. Lucky lived 5 years post-surgery.
Have you been helped by a small nonprofit group? Share your story below.