SPCA lends a paw to Sacramento seniors

Sacramento SPCA helps seniors with pet expenses

Sue Harmon, 75, of Orangevale is thankful to the Sacramento SPCA for helping with her pet expenses through a program to keep seniors with their pets.
Up Next
Sue Harmon, 75, of Orangevale is thankful to the Sacramento SPCA for helping with her pet expenses through a program to keep seniors with their pets.

In early 2015, Susan Lytle, 73, noticed an abrupt shift in the behavior of her typically “tough but charming” half-boxer, half-Rhodesian Ridgeback, Red Caboose. Red Caboose seemed agitated and whimpered at the slightest touch of his hind legs.

A trip to the veterinarian confirmed a 6-inch tumor near Red’s hip – large and painful enough to warrant surgical removal. Lytle, however, could not afford the $245 surgery. The Citrus Heights resident feared the expense would mean she’d lose her companion.

Lytle then discovered a grant available through the Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA, intended to cover such expenses so older people can keep their pets at home.

For seniors who live alone, pets are often a primary source of company and companionship, said Rick Johnson, Sacramento SPCA’s CEO. Banfield Senior Assistance Grants have aided in the SPCA’s efforts to keep seniors and their pets united – part of their ambition to promote local seniors’ health, mental and emotional well-being.

Lytle is one of 19 income-qualifying seniors served by the program since 2014. Banfield mini-grants – covering an average bill of $212 and up to $500 per senior – finance pets’ exams, lab work, X-rays, prescription medications, dental work and surgeries.

“On a fixed-income – like many seniors – I am so thankful that the SPCA has this fund,” said Lytle. “If you have a sick animal, you want to help them right away, but if you can’t afford to fix them, it’s awful to think of giving them up or putting them down.”

Seniors must be 65 or older and meet income guidelines of $1,800 or less per month for individuals or $2,400 or less for households of two. Pets must be spayed or neutered to qualify for care.

The program was adopted in response to an increase in individuals over 65 relinquishing their pets to Sacramento SPCA due to their inability to cover veterinary care. Prior to the program, Sacramento SPCA took in upward of 100 relinquished pets annually, Johnson said.

“This was terribly tear-jerking for both seniors and our staff to see,” he said.

“Healthwise, a dog is a fantastic companion when you live by yourself,” said Lytle. “God gave us pets for a reason.”

The Sacramento SPCA’s senior assistance program served Orangevale resident Sue Harmon, 73, in December when her Lhasa Apso, Dora, required surgery to repair her anterior cruciate ligament. A Banfield grant subsidized $500 of Dora’s $1,500 surgery, prompting several of Harmon’s friends to contribute toward the remaining cost.

“At first, I didn’t even want to admit she needed surgery because I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t afford it,” said Harmon. “If it wasn’t for the SPCA, my friends wouldn’t have been inspired to help me and Dora wouldn’t have had her leg repaired.”

In addition to financial grants, the SPCA offers free vaccinations for seniors’ pets on the first Tuesday of every month, waives adoption fees, provides animal-assisted home visits and discounts on training and behavior consultations. In collaboration with the SPCA, El Camino Veterinary Hospital offers seniors discounted rates on veterinary services.

After a year of the program’s success, Banfield Charitable Trust granted the SPCA an additional $10,000 in June to continue offering services to seniors and their pets.

Brenna Lyles: 916-321-1083, @brennmlyles

Sacramento SPCA’s senior assistance grant

To qualify:

  • Must be 65 or older
  • Must meet monthly income requirements of $1,800 or less for individuals, $2,400 or less for household of two
  • Pets must be spayed or neutered
  • Proof required

Contact: Senior Services Coordinator Shari Lowen,, or 916-504-2845

Note: The program is not designed for animals with an ongoing or emergency condition