Since fall 2013, Mission K9 Rescue in Texas has rescued more than 500 working dogs, as well as reunited 270-plus dogs with their former handlers.
And during that time, the nonprofit organization has also paid the medical expenses for these retired military, contract, police K9 and prison K9 dogs. So to help owner-handlers who are financially unable to cover the cost of urgent veterinary care, Mission K9 Rescue in January launched the donor-supported Retired K9 Medical Fund.
“Our average vet care cost is between $30,000 and $40,000 a month for all the care that we provide,” said Bob Bryant, Mission K9 Rescue’s chief financial officer. “We felt the idea of a donor-supported fund to make more people aware of what it costs to care for these dogs, especially for handlers who may not have the money to handle a major veterinary expense, [was] a way we can give back to them.”
According to the Retired K9 Medical Fund website, to be eligible for financial assistance, the applicants must be the owners-handlers of the retired working dogs in their care. The veterinary care has to be urgent and one in which the owner has no resources to cover the cost. Also, the applicant agrees to allow Mission K9 Rescue to make direct payments to the veterinarian. Approved cases receive up to $500 toward care.
“If a handler writes me today and says, ‘My dog has a [big veterinary] bill; I can’t pay it,’ I look if there’s money in the fund [and I] write a check or I PayPal it immediately,” explained Bryant.
If funds are tight, he says it might take five to 10 days to come up with the resources. “But in the meantime,” Bryant added, “we contact the veterinarian, we explain to them who we are, what we’re doing, that we’re raising money for the care, and that way the veterinarian does not necessarily require payment immediately.”
Ingesting of foreign objects is the most common medical-related issue among Mission K9 Rescue’s dogs, says Bryant.
“These dogs will eat rags; they’ll eat tennis balls,” he said.
The second biggest issue, according to Bryant, is cancer.
“Every one of these dogs, it seems like [the ones who have] been exposed to explosive compounds, has some kind of cancer,” he said. “I’ve lost two dogs to cancer in the last four years. … Sometimes it’s treatable; sometimes it’s not. It’s the quality of life that we’re concerned about.” The Retired K9 Medical Fund also covers end-of-life care so owner-handlers do not have to bear the cost of euthanization or cremation.
Mission K9 Rescue does not take deductions from the fund for organizational expenses; 100 percent of donor contributions goes to dog care. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to the Retired K9 Medical Fund.