Pet Points: Do your homework before giving to animal charities

This is the time of the year when animal charities seek donations. Before making a donation, do your research. Some organizations spend most of their contributions on advertising, promotion, lobbying and administrative costs.

In a very sad case, the Veterinary Information Network reported on the Dr. Steve Abrams Memorial Foundation-PetSavers Inc. As a 501c3 charity, PetSavers solicits donations and asks veterinarians to contribute time and money. After receiving reports of fraud, investigators were able to track 17 veterinarians or practice managers and document failure to reimburse $205,000 for pet care that was promised. Also, almost $40,000 in veterinary sponsor donations were lost. The initial report involved more than 100 animal funding requests by 23 practices in nine states that were never paid. Many practices provided documentation to support their stories. Alan Abrams, the son of veterinarian Steve Abrams, runs the charity and was convicted in 1993 of practicing veterinary medicine without a license, according to VIN.

In contrast, this area has some unique charities that directly help abused animals.

AAARF! is a fund administered by Allegheny County treasurer John Weinstein, the district attorney’s office, local shelters, members of the public and veterinarians, including me. We solicit donations from the public and recently reimbursed Humane Animal Rescue, Animal Friends, Homeless Cat Management Team and emergency veterinary hospitals for care of injured and abused animals. This year, the requests were three times the total funds available.

Statewide, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation has the Last Chance Fund. This fund recently provided $6,000 to cover orthopedic surgery for an abused horse and $500 for a retired military canine who needed neck surgery.

The Veterinary School at the University of Pennsylvania educates the next generation of veterinarians, who often graduate with a crushing amount of debt. The school also provides clinical services and research for the cure of diseases of both animals and humans. Penn Vet relies on donations to help fulfill its mission.

Donating to area agencies helps animals and supports the local economy. Shelters like Humane Animal Rescue and Animal Friends provide adoption and other services for area pets. They also help with medical care when pet owners have financial need. A dedicated core of volunteers, employees and generous donors provide the care these pets need.

Breed rescues and other area shelters also help animals find new forever homes. The Homeless Cat Management Team help to control the feline population by providing care to feral and rescue cats. They provide outdoor colonies with food and shelter and support the concept of trap, neuter and release while trying to minimize the inconvenience of free roaming cats.

There are many other legitimate rescue groups. Do your homework to make sure  the money you give is used for a good cause.

Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His biweekly column is intended to educate pet owners. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you’d like addressed in Pet Points, email Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.