The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Editor, Valdez Star 

Fund running short that helps pet-owners in crisis

Veterinary office says Honey Bear fund helps defray costs when owners can't pay


The Honey Bear fund is running a little short.

For several years, veterinarians Katherine and Kelly Hawkins quietly helped pet owners in need at their practice, the Valdez Veterinary Clinic. The two often donated their time - and spendy lab tests and other expensive needs associated with caring for sick animals.

Katherine Hawkins said the couple basically had to eat the cost associated with caring for sick animals whose owners could not pay for services.

This changed somewhat in 2011 when Cliff Eames and Ruth McHenry donated $500 to the clinic to help defray the costs of testing, surgery and other needs that crop up with pet owners in dire financial straights.

They named fund after their Golden retriever, Honey Bear.

"After he died they wanted to set up a fund to help other animals," Hawkins said.

If people come in and they can't afford either a work up or surgery or treatment for their pet, we will use funds out of that - along with our donation of our time to provide care," Hawkins said.

The Hawkins still needed to donate their time to treat pets when their owners cannot pay, but the fund helps take the edge off of providing medical supplies that the two often ended up paying for out of their own pockets.

The Honey Bear fund grew into an in-house program at the clinic - it is a privately held and fund not tax deductible. As such, it was kept going with small donations. There is a bear on the counter at the clinic where patrons can add a few bucks here and there.

"We don't get a lot of people donating into it," Hawkins said, "but often on we'll get a few."

The fund saw a huge surge in donations in January 2014 when a cat named Ninja - and his owners - made nationwide news when they attempted to carry that cat over a large avalanche blocking the Richardson highway. Ninjas owners ended up in jail but public support swelled the cat and its owners.

Money poured into the Honey Bear fund when the public learned that the clinic had committed to treating the cat, which had a blocked urinary tract, despite the fact that the owners could not pay for the treatment at the time.

Almost two years later, donations to the fund have slowed to a trickle but the need to help treat animals whose owners are in tight financial circumstances in Valdez remains.

The clinic used the funds to help save numerous animals who might otherwise have died for lack of medical care.

The clinic is looking for donations to the fund, especially as winter sets in.

Photo courtesy Katherine Hawkins

Kira- a dog that belonged to a resident of the hospital's long term care that facility - that was treated for diabetes using funds from the Valdez Veterinary Clinic's Honey Bear fund.

"Even before this fund got started, I will tell you we never turned an animal away," Hawkins said, a rarity in the world of veterinary medicine.

The clinic hopes fresh donations to the Honey Bear fund will help the doctors continue its tradition of caring for pets in need.

"That is a philosophy Kelly and me feels strongly about," she said. "There are some clinics that will say we're sorry if you can't pay."

Hawkins said that the funds are restricted to emergency medical care for pets that are healthy enough to recover from the treatments, and are not used for routine care such as vaccinations or sterilizations.

The Friends of the Valdez Shelter offers a number of low-cost options for pets in need of routine care.


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