PetSmart Charities Of Canada Commits $18M To Improve Access To Veterinary Care

“Hairy Styles” was 8 years old when his owner was faced with unemployment along with Hairy’s sudden health crisis. The Nova Scotia SPCA Veterinary Hospital, a PetSmart Charities of Canada grantee, offered the care Hairy needed to heal, while ensuring his owner stayed in their cat-friendly apartment. (CNW Group/PetSmart Charities of Canada, Inc.)

The inability of many families to access veterinary care is a pressing issue facing animal welfare nationally. To combat this, PetSmart Charities of Canada announced a commitment of $18 million over the next five years to help break down the geographic, cultural, and financial barriers that prevent pets from receiving the veterinary care they need to thrive.

Veterinary care access impacts families in every community in the country. Nearly 1 in 5 pet parents in Canada have wanted or needed preventive care but have not been able to access it due to affordability or inability to get an appointment. Without regular veterinary care, minor pet health issues often become bigger, costlier problems; and preventable diseases can be passed on to people and other pets. Pet parents may be forced to relinquish their beloved pets to animal shelters or be forced to watch them suffer when they can’t access treatment. With pets being universally recognized as beloved family members, the challenges posed by a lack of access to veterinary care can have a profound impact.

PetSmart Charities of Canada estimates it would cost more than $5 billion annually to bridge the gap for pets currently receiving no vet care. More needs to be done to expand availability of lower-cost services, build access for remote communities and ensure there are enough veterinarians able to perform a variety of services through clinics and urgent care centres. To help lead the charge, the nonprofit is taking a leadership role in marshaling partners and stakeholders to develop and execute solutions to solving the gap in veterinary care access.

“The challenges facing the veterinary care system are vast and varied and no single organization can solve them alone,” said Aimee Gilbreath, president of PetSmart Charities of Canada. “Through PetSmart Charities of Canada’s commitment, we plan to invest further in our partners and build new alliances to innovate solutions across the entire system, while also funding long-term solutions already in place such as low-cost vet clinics. We’re confident this approach will produce sustainable change within the veterinary care industry. Our best friends deserve access to adequate health care like any family member.”

Barriers to Veterinary Care

While affordability remains the most prominent barrier to veterinary care, additional challenges contribute to the current veterinary care gap, including:

  • Veterinary Shortage:  Pet ownership is steadily on the rise with nearly 60 per cent of Canadian households owning a pet, but statistics show that the need for veterinary care is not keeping pace.
  • Veterinary Deserts and Cultural Inclusion: Within remote and underserved regions, veterinary practices are difficult to find close-by, making trips to the veterinarian costly and sometimes impossible. Additionally, as veterinarians are currently listed among the top five least diverse professionscultural divides can often occur between clients and veterinarians, discouraging some pet parents from seeking care.
  • Economic Challenges: The cost of living has spiked heavily, and with the Consumer Price Index up 6.8%, already strained lower-income households especially feel the impact. Pets whose pet parents cited not being able to afford medical care made up more than 15% of owner-relinquished animals at shelters. Between 2.5 and 7.5 percent of Canadian pets live in food insecure households, making it especially difficult for pet parents to cover vet expenses.
  • Regulatory Challenges: Nationwide, fragmented and varied veterinary regulations pose challenges to the development of easy, efficient and consistent solutions such as telemedicine and even to establishing low-cost clinics.
How PetSmart Charities of Canada Will Innovate Solutions

Through an $18 million commitment of funding over the next five years, PetSmart Charities of Canada will take a multifaceted approach to improve access to adequate veterinary care for all pets, including:

  • Funding solutions across the system of veterinary care – from investing in new and more affordable types of clinics to working directly with providers to help them overcome challenges in care delivery.
  • Supporting innovative solutions such as new telehealth care and remote service models.
  • Partnering with universities and thought leaders to research the evolving needs of pets while developing innovative, cost-effective ways to deliver care.
  • Expanding access to lower-cost veterinary care through sustainable nonprofit clinics.
  • Developing community-based models led by local changemakers to improve access to veterinary care to underserved communities through an emphasis on their unique challenges.

For more information on how PetSmart Charities of Canada is working to expand access to veterinary care nationwide or to help support initiatives like this for pets and their families, visit


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