Providing Veterinary Care for Low-Income Communities: New Solutions


Dr. David Haworth, DVM PhD, President, PetSmart Charities of Canada

Pet owners in low-income communities often face significant difficulties when seeking even basic veterinary care for their beloved pet(s).  Geographic, economic and cultural barriers make it hard, if not impossible, to access the kinds of services that facilitate and cultivate the human-animal bond.  New evidence demonstrates that there is interest in and (in most cases) the ability to pay for this kind of care in all communities, but the veterinary practices simply aren't available.

Recently, several new practice models have been developed throughout North America that allow veterinary care to be provided at costs bearable by all pet owners.  These are often very different than traditional practice models, but all provide quality medicine at a reasonable cost. Mobile clinic options, limited offerings and high use of paraprofessional staff have all been used in combination or singly to successful outcomes.

These are market-based solutions, but philanthropy has a strong role to play. Understanding and communicating in communities without a strong history of veterinary care, hedging the risks of starting a business in a low-income community and helping to educate governments on the need and benefits of veterinary care in low-income communities can all be valuable activities for a charity in this space. 


  1. Understand the extent of the need and the scale of the problem/opportunity.
  2. Learn several business models that have been shown to be successful under different circumstances.
  3. Understand the role that philanthropy can play in making these business models successful and thereby contribute to the human-animal bond.

David Haworth, DVM PhD is the President of PetSmart Charities in the US and Canada. PetSmart Charities seeks to end pet homelessness by supporting partner organizations that keep pets out of shelters, find homes for pets in shelters and advance the relationship between pets and people. Dr. Haworth was formerly President and CEO at Morris Animal Foundation, and held multiple positions at Pfizer Animal Health (now Zoetis, Inc.).