Fast forward a few years … after she’d moved to Florida and started work at Tech Data, things were much better for Jones and she decided it was time to give back. She thought helping animals was a good way to do that, so she started volunteering for a local animal shelter. But Jones felt the urge to do more. She wanted to find a way to prevent many pets from having to come to shelters in the first place.
One day, after a particularly pricey veterinarian visit of about $500 total for her two dogs, it hit her that one reason many people — those on fixed incomes and many who, like Jones had been a few years earlier, have been laid off — have to take their pets to shelters is because they simply can’t afford to care for them. That’s when she got the idea for Canine Care Tampa Bay.
“I’m not just helping pets, I’m helping people. For every pet I help, there are people who love those pets — and in a lot of cases, those pets are their family.”
The nonprofit charity organization, which Jones founded in 2012, was initially meant to be just for dogs but then she realized cats needed included too. The goal is to help responsible pet parents in the Tampa, Florida, area help their pets. While Jones is only currently able to assist local pet parents, she hopes to eventually share her business model with other like-minded animal lovers in other cities and states.
“We make it possible for pets to get care that otherwise they would not get,” she said, “or they’d be surrendered or potentially euthanized.”
Jones partners with several area veterinarians for discounted rates, called rescue rates, and it’s those vets that most referrals come through. A large portion of the pet parents helped through the program are seniors and/or disabled veterans on fixed incomes or on government assistance — and for many of them, their pets are their only companions and play a large part in their emotional well-being. Jones reviews every application carefully and will provide assistance if she determines the pet parent truly needs help, and if the organization has the funds.
Since helping the first pet in January of 2013, a Lhasa apso named Simon with a skin condition, Canine Care has paid all or a portion of 937 vet bills. Many pets are repeat recipients, so the actual number of animals aided through the program is 129 cats and 371 dogs. In total, more than $115,000 has been spent for an estimated value (because of the reduced rates and in-kind donations from vets) of $200,000 in veterinary care. All pets in the program must be spayed or neutered as a way to help curb the high population of unwanted and abandoned pets.
While the organization isn’t set up for emergencies, Jones says there have been quite a few life or death situations where Canine Care was able to help. There have been at least a half dozen instances, as an example, where female dogs needed emergency surgery for a condition called pyometra, an infection that occurs as a result of hormonal changes in the reproductive tract.
Many of the applications for help, however, are for routine health care. Just this month, Jones was contacted by a single mom who’d lost her service industry job because of the pandemic and was struggling just to provide for her two kids let alone pay for wellness care for their dogs, Bear and Bella.