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In the past two years, nearly 28 percent of households experienced barriers to veterinary care, according to a national population survey conducted by the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition, a partnership of for-profit and nonprofit veterinary service providers, animal welfare and social service professionals, and educators, working in collaboration with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Social Work.

Dogs and cats living in lower-income households and with younger pet owners are most at risk for not receiving recommended care. The overwhelming barrier for all groups of pet owners and all types of care is financial, with 80 percent unable to obtain preventative care due to financial constraints, 74 percent for sick care, and 56 percent for emergency care.

The coalition’s seminal report, Access to Veterinary Care: Barriers, Current Practices, and Public Policy, released today, identifies the need for better solutions that allow more people to obtain veterinary care.

“Lack of access to veterinary care is a complex societal problem with many causes,” said Michael Blackwell, chairman of the coalition, veterinarian, former dean of UT’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and director of the Program for Pet Health Equity. “This report furthers our understanding of these complex and interrelated issues and can guide stakeholders in the development of solutions to reach underserved families with pets. Barriers to veterinary care can be mitigated through determined effort and better alignment of existing resources to achieve this outcome.”

The study was commissioned through a generous grant from Maddie’s Fund, a national family foundation created by Dave and Cheryl Duffield to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals, to better understand the barriers faced by pet owners across the socioeconomic spectrum.

The study also sought to understand the knowledge, attitudes, and practices veterinarians have regarding access to care.

The study confirmed that veterinary service providers recognize the severity of the problem and feel a commitment to explore ways to address it. The highest level of agreement expressed by veterinarians in the survey was in response to the statement: “All pets deserve some level of veterinary care.” Almost all respondents—95 percent—either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement. Nearly nine out of 10 respondents indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that owned pets are a member of the family. Similarly, 87 percent agreed that not being able to obtain needed veterinary care impacts the owner’s mental and emotional health.

The report also includes results of research that focuses on pet owners experiencing housing insecurity; technical reports from experts on pets as family, evolving animal welfare laws, public health, and for-profit and nonprofit veterinary practices; and a discussion of issues and attitudes that are relevant to access to care in veterinary practice.

“This is a critical report for the future of the veterinary profession and the animals we made an oath to help,” said Dr. Laurie Peek, of the Maddie’s Fund Executive Leadership Team. “It will truly revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals.”

About Maddie’s Fund

Maddie’s Fund is a family foundation created in 1994 by Workday co-founder Dave Duffield and his wife, Cheryl, who endowed the foundation with more than $300 million. The foundation has awarded more than $208.9 million in grants toward increased community lifesaving, shelter medicine education and pet adoptions, and foster care across the United States. The Duffields named Maddie’s Fund after their miniature schnauzer, Maddie, who made them laugh and gave them great joy. Maddie was with them for 10 years and continues to inspire them today. Maddie’s Fund is the fulfillment of a promise to an inspirational dog, investing its resources to create a no-kill nation where every dog and cat is guaranteed a healthy home or habitat.

CONTACT:

Brian Canever, UT Knoxville Media Relations (865-974-0937, bcanever@utk.edu)

Betsy DeGeorge, College of Social Work (865-974-8638, edegeorg@utk.edu)

Candice Hinkle, Program for Pet Health Equity (candicehinkle@utk.edu)