Why Life Just Got Harder for Dogs and Cats in Oklahoma

As any pet owner knows, vet bills can be astronomical and result in some seriously heartbreaking decisions. But for the past eight years in Oklahoma City, many pets and pet owners have had a lifeline.

Eric McCune, founder and chairman of the Bella Foundation SPCA, has maintained a veterinary assistance program since 2007 to help elderly, low-income, and terminally ill pet owners pay their vet bills and allow their pets to receive the costly medical care they need to recover. Over the years, it has provided about $600,000 locally for this cause. In return for financial assistance, owners must agree to volunteer eight hours of their time at the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter or another local shelter.

However, times are tough and funds are running short. The Bella Foundation announced that it has temporarily suspended its vet assistance program due to too much demand and not enough philanthropic support.

“Because monthly donations for the first quarter of 2015 have fallen short of the goal for this program, we have seen an increase in accounts payable but not an increase in funding,” explained McCune. “We cannot in good conscience continue to offer assistance when existing balances continue to grow. Doing so would only put our organization further behind and would be fiscally irresponsible to our donors and supporters.”

The Bella Foundation’s Christy Delano told Oklahoma City’s KOCO 5 News that she gets 10 to 30 calls per day for help and 40 to 50 applications per month for the veterinary assistance program.

"We need people to step up, desperately,” Delano said. “Now for the next month, I have to tell people every day, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have it. And that’s horrible.”

The Bella Foundation was founded on a mission to assist low-income individuals with life-threatening pet care burdens. Only more recently did it also start dabbling in pet adoptions. But despite the board’s decision to suspend the original vet care program, local adoption and foster care efforts are still going strong.

The Bella Foundation isn’t the typical sort of funder that we cover here at Inside Philanthropy, but the news of its program suspension brought a bigger issue to light. Across the south and southwest, animal welfare is still a low priority among the local and regional funders. The occasional animal-loving philanthropist may fund a local spay-and-neuter campaign, but ongoing and long-term support in this area is seriously lacking.

A couple general resources for Oklahoma organizations struggling to find funds for furry friends are Red Rover, Oklahoma Grant Watch, and Animal Sheltering. One local Oklahoma City-based funder to keep on your radar is the Kirkpatrick Foundation, which funds animal welfare causes and gives priority to the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Learn more about Kirkpatrick’s relevant funding on the foundation’s Animal Well-being page, Safe & Humane initiative page, and Grant Applications page.