For dogs like Marley, a seven month old boxer mix, and Ruby, a seven month old blue healer, the MCHA spay-neuter assistance program might be the only opportunity their family has to make sure they can afford have their pets spayed/neutered. During October, MCHA issued 42 assistance vouchers that would help off-set the costs of a spay/neuter surgery at any participating veterinarian in our community.
While Marley & Ruby were with us, MCHA was also able to provide a thorough exam, a rabies vaccine and provide treatment for fleas. Unfortunately, Marley’s family didn’t have the funds necessary to pay for treating fleas or their rabies vaccines. By utilizing grant funds and donated medication, MCHA was able to provide all of these services, in addition to a $40 voucher each towards Marley and Ruby’s spay surgeries.
MCHA has facilitated a veterinary copay assistance program since 2000, providing thousands of animals with emergency veterinary care and ensuring that many animals were able to be spayed/neutered when their families could not have afforded the full cost of the spay/neuter surgery. Vouchers are eligible to be used at any full-service veterinary practice (that will accept them) in the Monroe County area.
Because of increased demand and the on-going costs of overhead related to coordinating spay/neuter assistance vouchers, MCHA had to restructure how vouchers were issued. Throughout 2016, only 15% of the total vouchers issued were only redeemed. Vouchers were distributed via USPS or provided on-site, putting additional costs and demands on the program that through a small nonprofit with a small staff, were not sustainable.
Effective on October 1, 2017, MCHA revised spay-neuter assistance vouchers so that they would only be issued an appointment through the Nonprofit Veterinary Clinic. The option to have a voucher mailed, or apply by phone, or at the administration office is no longer available. During an appointment, clients receive an exam and the opportunity to have a rabies vaccine done at the time. A rabies vaccine is a pre-requisite for any clinic that honors the spay-neuter assistance voucher. By ensuring the client is healthy and current on their vaccinations, MCHA hopes to increase the rate that vouchers are redeemed and that pets will be spayed/neutered.
By making these changes to the program, the SNAP voucher system is more efficient and easier to maintain for staff.
Vouchers are eligible only to clients that live in Monroe County, and can provide proof of an approved government financial assistance program or a paystub that verifies they live at or below the Indiana defined poverty level. Vouchers are eligible for dogs and cats only, and are limited to three per household. Vouchers are used directly with a participating Veterinary clinic and are not redeemable for cash, or services other than a spay/neuter surgery.
If a client pays $10 for an exam and $10 towards a rabies vaccine, they will receive at minimum that cost savings in a voucher towards the spay/neuter voucher. Vouchers are valued at $20 towards a cat spay/neuter surgery and $40 towards a dog spay/neuter surgery. Any additional services at the time of spay/neuter or costs related to the procedure are the responsibility of the pet owner. Vouchers have an expiration date of three months from the date they are issued. Vouchers can only be re-issued on-site at the MCHA Nonprofit Veterinary Clinic and Outreach Center.
Similar voucher programs that operate state-wide in Indiana require an up-front fee of $20 cashier’s check towards the voucher, and are also restricted based on availability and demand.
By creating more structure around the SNAP program, MCHA hopes to reduce costs, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the program, and continue working towards a healthier community.
Annually, the allocated budget to the SNAP program has been outspent by demand every year. And every year, MCHA continues to fund vouchers because it’s an initiative we deem appropriate enough to go over-budget and continue to be funded as demand requires. The allocated budget has been outspent since September of 2017, and MCHA has facilitated the same number of vouchers as we have in previous months.
We realize that the additional hurdles for SNAP vouchers will be difficult for clients, at first. Throughout 2017, we were issuing significantly more vouchers than in previous years. However, several vouchers were being returned because of an incorrect address, were requiring to be reissued several times, or are just going unused. Managing the voucher database required the help of several volunteers, not to mention the administrative costs of postage and envelopes. It is our goal that by issuing vouchers at appointments, we can make sure that clients are healthy enough for spay/neuter surgery and have any additional needs taken care of at that time, such as vaccinations, flea preventative, or bloodwork if pets are over the age of 7. While clients are asked to pay the $10 appointment fee and $10 vaccination fee for rabies, vouchers are still worth a minimum of $20 (value of $40 if the pet is a dog).
Number of vouchers issued:
July: 26 / Redeemed: $360.00
August: 38 / Redeemed: $580.00
September 37 / Redeemed: $60.00
October: 42 / Redeemed: $520
Redeemed Rates: Veterinarians have up to 30 days to submit for repayment. Vouchers have a 3month expiration date. For example, a voucher issued in October has until January 1 to be redeemed with a Veterinarian before it expires.
Other Voucher Programs:
MCHA facilitates two additional spay-neuter veterinary co-pay assistance programs. There are no changes to the program management of these initiatives.
When a pet owner surrenders the full litter of puppies or kittens to the City of Bloomington Animal Care and Control (3410 South Walnut Street), a Spay-Neuter Assistance voucher is available for the full cost of the spay/neuter surgery at Pets Alive or $30 towards the spay/neuter of a cat and $60 towards the spay/neuter of a dog. Pet owners must be Monroe County residents, and vouchers are only available for the mother/father of the litter. Vouchers are provided on-site at the City of Bloomington Animal Care and Control at the time of surrender by BACC Intake Staff.
Community Cat spay/neuter vouchers can be applied for online or on-site at the Nonprofit Veterinary Clinic. Additional assistance is limited to education, trapping/transportation and financial assistance for the spay/neuter surgeries of community cats.