Modern veterinary care is expensive. Owners are demanding, and veterinarians are increasingly able to provide a higher standard of care than they used to, and costs have risen as a result. Pet insurance and a savings account specifically for veterinary expenses are the best ways to protect yourself from having to make care decisions based solely on finances, but sometimes these safeguards don’t go far enough. More and more, pet parents are turning to crowdfunding to help with large and/or unexpected veterinary bills. But before you head in that direction, you should be aware of the pros and cons.
Raising Money for Vet Bills
First of all, crowdfunding is not a magic source of unlimited funds. Don’t expect to create your page and sit back and watch the money pour in from complete strangers. While fundraisers do occasionally go viral, these are far less common than the ones that don’t raise a dime.
“A common misconception about GoFundMe is that strangers are rushing in to donate and then hoping for the best. That's simply not the case,” said Brad Damphousse, cofounder of GoFundMe, in a 2013 interview with petMD. “GoFundMe makes it very easy for family, friends, and communities to come together and support one another when they need it most. Said otherwise, the trust level is very high on GoFundMe because campaign organizers and their supporters personally know one another—or have a personal connection to the campaign.”
Or as Plumfund puts it, “A plumfund is a great way for friends and family near and far to help out with veterinary bills when a pet is sick or injured.” The nonprofit PetChance takes a different approach to crowdfunding veterinary care. To overcome the reluctance that people might have donating to owners who they might not know very well, PetChance pays veterinarians directly once treatment has been provided.
Look at crowdfunding as a way to ask many people who know you for relatively small sums of money toward your veterinary bill. Additionally, you should be prepared to “work” for that money. If you are asking people to fork over their hard-earned cash, they deserve something in return. A written thank you, regular updates on your pet’s progress (with pictures if possible), and even an inexpensive party to celebrate your pet’s recovery will reassure your benefactors that their donations are appreciated and being put to good use.
Many crowdfunding sites have fees associated with them. For example, GoFundMe takes about 8 percent from each donation, while Plumfund charges an approximately 3 percent third-party fee for online contributions (offline cash or check donations are free on Plumfund). The PetChance website says a “6.5 percent fee is deducted from the amount you raise to cover credit card charges and other operational costs.” If you are lucky enough to have a handful of close friends or family members who might be able to cover the cost of your pet’s care, it could be best to contact them directly to avoid these charges and the time and effort associated with going through a crowdfunding site.
If crowdfunding doesn’t feel like the right fit for you, consider contacting one or more charities. The Humane Society of the United States maintains an excellent list of national and state organizations that provide financial assistance to pet owners in need. Finally, don’t forget to talk directly to your veterinarian. The clinic may have a charitable fund to help in situations like yours, or your vet may be able to put you in contact with a local group or benefactor who can help.