British Columbia

Downtown Eastside free pet care clinic means one less worry

A Vancouver group set up a free animal health care clinic in Canada's poorest postal code Sunday offering vaccinations, deworming treatments, and even nail clipping to residents on the Downtown Eastside.

Health workers say residents in poor neighbhourhood often put the need of their pets ahead of their own

Marilyn sits outside the free pet clinic Sunday waiting to have her dog Max's eyes checked. (CBC)

A Vancouver group set up a free animal health care clinic in Canada's poorest postal code Sunday offering vaccinations, deworming treatments, and even nail clipping to residents on the Downtown Eastside.

For many people struggling to make ends meet in an expensive city, a pet can be a source of comfort, but it can also be a source of financial strain.  

On Sunday Downtown Eastside residents, on low income, on disability, or homeless, brought their pets to a free animal health care clinic —a service organizers say they plan to expand.

It's the third such clinic in a year-and-a half organized by the Paws for Hope Foundation in cooperation with Raincity Housing. 

Paws for Hope's Kathy Powelson says for many Downtown Eastside residents their pet is their best friend and often people on low income, or who are homeless, will put the pet's needs first.
The free pet clinic provides medical care for animals owned by people on low income who, health workers say, often put the needs of their pet before their own. (CBC)
"it's rare to see an abused animal," she said. "People here love their pets and many people living on the Downtown Eastside will often put their pets before themselves and that's one of the reasons why this work is so great for us. it helps us honour that bond and that relationship."

More clinics planned

Powelson says another three clinics are planned next year. People bring their animals for checkups, vaccinations, flea treatments, de-worming, nail trims and ear cleans. She says much of the medication itself is donated by the drug companies but it's the follow-up care that can be expensive.

"Dental is probably the biggest one," she said. "We provide $3,000 to $7,000 in follow-up treatment and surgeries."

Downtown Eastside resident Marilyn brought her dog, Max, for a nail clip, a flea treatment and to have his eyes checked.  She said Max hadn't had a check-up in two years.

"It will ease my mind about his health," she said," and it's good to know he's OK because I'm always afraid he's sick."

Powelson says Vancouver's Homelessness Action Week is just around the corner, and she hopes that event and this one will help raise awareness and rally help.