New Grantmaking From a Veterinary Powerhouse

If you own a pet and frequent PetSmart stores, you’ve probably encountered an embedded Banfield veterinary clinic. Across 40 states, Banfield Pet Hospital operates over 900 clinics inside PetSmart locations, making it one of the largest private veterinary practices in the country. And it looks like Banfield’s charity efforts are set to expand.

Early this month, the Banfield Foundation announced two more grant programs. Both of the new initiativesDisaster Relief Grants and Flea/Tick Grantsare currently accepting applications. These programs build on a recent history of grantmaking: the Banfield Foundation came into existence in May of 2015. Since then, it has given over $1.5 million to 150 nonprofits, “impacting 50,000 pets across the country.”

That means most Banfield grants are relatively small, usually in the $10,000 range. One notable exception was its inaugural grant of $200,000 to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Not counting the two new programs, Banfield’s current grantmaking covers two areas: veterinary assistance and pet advocacy (nonprofit efforts to strengthen the human-animal bond and keep pets and their owners together).

Prompted by the recent natural disasters in Louisiana, the new Disaster Relief Grant program provides resources to local nonprofits and governments to help beleaguered animals. Disaster relief and resilience seems to be a priority throughout the company: an employee charity program also focuses on the issue. The Flea/Tick Grants provide interested nonprofits with a supply of preventative treatment for use on dogs. It’s likely that the monetary amounts involved (for the Disaster Relief grants at least) will be most appropriate for small and medium-sized organizations/projects.

While the Banfield Foundation’s initial grantmaking has been modest, there’s room for it to grow. Between Banfield Pet Hospital’s independent revenue (over $700 million) and its alliance with PetSmart, it’s already a force to be reckoned with in the veterinary world. What you might not guess is that Banfield is a subsidiary company, not of PetSmart, but of Mars Incorporated. Mars Petcare, incidentally, manufactures some of the leading brands of dog food including Royal Canin and Pedigree. Last year it also acquired Blue Pearl, another chain of animal specialty stores and veterinary clinics with over 50 locations.

The Mars connection may mean little when it comes to the Banfield Foundation’s giving. But as we’ve discussed, the Mars family controls one of the largest fortunes in the country, and their philanthropy has not yet reflected that fact. If and when it does, animal causes may come out very much ahead. Granted, most of their animal philanthropy so far has been for conservation rather than pets, but it’s still worth watching.

Note also that the Banfield Pet Hospital has been around (and under varied ownership) since 1955. Headquartered in Oregon, it gave small grants through a vehicle called the Banfield Charitable Trust for a number of years. Since last year, it looks like the Banfield Foundation has replaced the trust. Among its final acts in 2015, the trust fully transferred its Pet Assistance Grant Program to Meals on Wheels to help feed the pets of homebound people.