$20k award helps Philly group offer free vet services

A $20,000 award will allow a Philadelphia group to offer what may well be the first free veterinary services program in the state.

Just last week Melissa Levy of Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society was bemoaning the fact that while there are a number of low-cost vet care options for pet owners, there are no free veterinary care programs for those who cannot afford to pay steep retail prices.

Today that changed with word that PAWS was one of five community groups in a national contest to win $20,000 from Tom's of Maine as part of its "50 States for Good" program.  

With 25 percent of population at or below the poverty line, many Philadelphia residents can't afford even low-cost services and free services can mean the difference between pets remaining members of family and ending up on streets or shelters, she said. 

PAWS was able to get the doors open on its reduced rate clinic in Grays Ferry in March with the help of a $50,000 grant from the Eagles' Treating Animals with Kindness program - the result of Michael Vick's controversial signing last year.

Levy said the new award will cover services for as many as 500 animals and hopefully prevent the births of thousands unwanted animals. The group will stretch the money as far as it can go - which may mean about six months - but if there are enough contributions Levy said would like to try to keep the program alive.