Humane societies will be able to offer a wide range of veterinary care for pets in low-income households at reduced fees, as a result of legislation passed today by the House on a 77-18 vote.

Senate Bill 5004, sponsored by Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), would remove severe state restrictions on the types of care that can be offered for reduced fees by animal care-and-control agencies and non-profit humane societies.

“At a time when more households are struggling to make ends meet, this will help people better care for their pets, relieve pain and suffering, and even avoid economic euthanasia,” Cleveland said. “For many people, including and especially our senior citizens, the cost of veterinary care is simply out of the question.”

When pets need care, people often turn to their local Humane Society for help, and yet, under current law, the help they can provide is severely limited.  Washington is one of fewer than 10 states that limit the range of services that humane societies can offer for reduced fees to include only vaccines, spaying or neutering, and microchipping. As a result, according to a recent Humane Society survey:

  • 60% of those seeking care for a pet do not regularly see a veterinarian;
  • 46% would need to borrow money to pay for treatment;
  • 65% would have their pets go untreated because they cannot afford treatment; and
  • 70% had to surrender aging or sick pets to be euthanized because they could not afford care.

“In households throughout our community, the mutual affection we share with our pets provides precious companionship, sometimes even someone’s primary companionship,” Cleveland said. “No one should have to watch a beloved companion suffer or die because of economic hardship.”

Cleveland’s bill would allow Humane societies to provide low-cost or no-cost veterinary services to low-income pet owners. Allowing emergency care and other services to those who meet specific income criteria would enable them to better care for their pets and avoid the stress, fear and delays in care that occur today. Households eligible for care must have an adjusted income less than 80 percent of the median family income, adjusted for household size, for the county where the household is located.

Having already passed the Senate, the legislation now goes to the governor to be signed into law.