SANTA CRUZ — What do you do when your beloved pet is facing expensive medical costs that you just can’t afford? Sadly, many people confronting this heartbreaking situation resort to euthanasia, surrendering or abandoning their life-long companions because of expensive veterinary bills.
Recognizing the need to help keep people and their pets together, Dr. Merrianne Burtch, a Santa Cruz veterinarian, is launching a new non-profit, the BirchBark Foundation.
BirchBark will provide grants for financial assistance to pet owners in need. It will also partner with local veterinarians to provide discounted care.
BirchBark is planning two celebrations to launch its new foundation. The first will be held at the Beach House at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club in Pebble Beach on Jan. 31 from 5-7 p.m. The second is slated for Feb. 6 at Cabrillo’s Sesnon House at Cabrillo College from 5-7 pm.
“What happens all too often is if a pet owner is faced with a catastrophic situation with their animal and they can’t afford the veterinary care, sometimes they can turn it over to the SPCA who will pay for the medical costs, but then they adopt it out to another family,” said Bunny Tavares, executive director of Birchbark. “It’s caring for the animals, but then taking them from loving families and putting them in a new family. One of our goals is to keep pets with their loving families and try as best we can to remove that financial obstacle. Currently, when someone can’t afford care for their pet, the choices are really pretty limited.”
Birchbark is initially starting up in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties and hoping to branch out to San Benito County over time.
“This has been a dream of Dr. Burtch’s for several years,” said Tavares. “We checked all around the bay area, and while there are many organizations who do a lot of fantastic work for animals, there was no other organization like this.”
“I’ve been practicing veterinary medicine on the central coast for 20 years,” said Dr. Burtch, founder and president of Birchbark. “I’ve seen people who are forced to say goodbye to their pet or separate from them because of finances. If there is a chance that we, as a community, can help them by removing finances as a reason for making a decision, then those people can make better choices. The goal is to create a sense of community between professionals and pet owners so that we can, as a group, try to increase the overall health of the pets in the community.”
With a goal of providing resources, community and education, Birchbark’s website will include pet health tips and links to resources. BirchBark also plans to host organized events to bring together pet owners and veterinary and pet behavior experts.
“We have very positive support from the community,” Tavares said. “Right now, it’s just the two of us and we’re looking for volunteers.”
Birchbark is a non-profit organization and will also gratefully accept donations.
For information and/or if you’d like to attend one of the launch events, contact Bunny Tavares at (831) 462-6004, or email her at email@example.com.