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Pilot project helps offset vet bills for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve pet owners

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Napolitaine the cat accidentally swallowed a necklace, and her owner says if it weren't for a program that helps with emergency medical costs, her pet might not be alive today.

The owner, who asked to remain anonymous and to be referred to as Cameron, says she is very fortunate.

"I just feel so lucky every morning. I see her and I'm, like, you're still alive," Cameron said.

Cameron says her 14-year-old feline almost didn't receive the care she needed due to vet costs.

"We were very worried that we started talking about costs and everything and obviously I couldn't help with that, I'm still a student," she said.

Unfortunately, many pet owners are finding it more challenging to pay for care. The SPCA Montreal's executive director, Laurence Massé, says her organization has seen an increase in pets brought in.

"Eight hundred animals that were surrendered last year were because of the housing crisis or because the owner couldn't afford to pay the vet bill," Masse said.

Napolitaine is doing well after receiving care at the HoMa veterinarian clinic. (CTV News)

Vet bills can be in the thousands in an emergency, so the SPCA suggests owners get pet insurance.

"It's really hard to put aside money for those kinds of emergencies. So I think that insurance is really a good way to cover that," Massé said.

But for some, insurance is not feasible. Luckily for Napolitaine and her owner Cameron, the HoMa vet clinic in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve has a pilot program called "Un P'tit Coup D'patte," which aims to help with some of the cost.

Among the criteria to qualify, the pet owner must be a borough resident and make less than $35,000 a year.

"Pet owners must cover at least 33 per cent of the bill. Our vet clinic does cover 17 per cent of the bill … [and] 50 per cent of it is donation based," said Elizabeth Bernier-Enfedaque, the head vet technician at the HoMaclinic.

They're counting on community support to continue to offer the financial aid.

"[On] June 23 you can come with your dog, your cat, your bird, your rabbit, and we will trim its nails and we ask for a minimum donation of $10," Bernier-Enfedaque said.

"So far, we've saved three lives, kept three families together. So we're really happy and proud about that."

Cameron says it means her cat, Napolitaine, gets a second chance, for which she is "very, very grateful." 

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