Quebec veterinarian on a mission to help families who can't afford animal care

An associate veterinarian at Hôpital vétérinaire du Boisé in Chicoutimi, Que., has launched a charitable foundation which aims to prevent animals from being abandoned or euthanized by offering subsidized medical care to those in need.

Julia East's foundation aims to subsidize procedures for pet owners struggling to pay

Dr. Julia East says it can be heartbreaking to tell a family that the medical treatment needed to treat their pet is more than they can afford. (Submitted by Dr. Julia East)

Unexpected veterinary care costs can be a financially painful surprise for any pet owner, but most people are just happy their furry companion can be treated and cleared to return home.

However, for some Quebecers, those unexpected costs mean they must instead bid a tearful farewell to their four-legged friends.

Dr. Julia East is looking to change that.

An associate veterinarian at Hôpital vétérinaire du Boisé in Chicoutimi, Que., East launched a charitable foundation in July, Les animaux du Boisé, that will subsidize pet medical care for those who can't afford the full cost of treatment.

The aim is to prevent abandonment or unnecessary euthanization by raising the funds needed to provide people's pets with the best possible care.

"It was really heartbreaking for me as many, many times, families and people come in to see me and I have to tell them bad news," said East, who started practicing veterinary medicine two years ago.

"Sometimes I am forced to do things I don't want to do just because there are no funds to treat the animals."

East said a bone fracture is a good example of a medical ailment that can be easily treated, but sometimes that treatment is so expensive that owners opt for euthanasia instead.

The new foundation aims to prevent pets from being put down because owners can't afford veterinary care. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

She said common procedures like that can result in bills numbering in the thousands.

While the local SPCA is there to help animals that don't have a family, she said she wants to help those animals that already have loving owners.

Helping owners foot the bill

Les animaux du Boisé is a non-for-profit initiative supported by volunteers from Hôpital vétérinaire du Boisé, a clinic located about 200 kilometres north of Quebec City in the province's Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region.

Often owners will have some money set side, but not enough to cover the entire bill.

"They will have to pay a little amount, what they can actually, and the foundation is going to be there to help them pay the complete bill."

Beyond fundraising and potentially partnering with other veterinarians in the future, the foundation also aims to raise awareness about the responsibilities that come with adopting a pet.

Dr. Julia East is behind a new charitable foundation in Quebec's Saguenay region that aims to help pet owners who can't easily afford medical care for their animals. (Fondation les Animaux du Boisé)

Fundraising for animal care

Later this month, the foundation is kicking off its first fundraising event.

On Sept. 9, about a dozen employees of the Hôpital vétérinaire du Boisé will be providing a list of animal care services for substantially reduced rates. Those services will range from ear cleaning and nail trimming to teeth cleaning and microchip installation.

For example, East said installing a microchip can cost up to $90 at some places, but her clinic will be offering the service for $25 during the four-hour event which will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the animal hospital.

All proceeds from the fundraiser will be donated to the foundation. 

"I started just with a dream to help animals," said East. "It's really heartbreaking to do my job sometimes and it's really hard for me. I hope, really, people are going to support me in helping animals."