Economic woes also hitting Badger Animal Fund
His soft, gray coat gleamed under a kitty sweater. A note attached to his carrier said he was neutered and declawed.
There was just one problem: His eyes, tiny and dysfunctional from a birth defect, were infected and needed to be removed.
That's where the Badger Animal Fund stepped in.
Veterinarian Steve Servantez started the fund five or six years ago when he noted a need for financial help for people whose pets developed serious or expensive health problems, he said. The fund helps dozens of animals a year, from dogs and cats to horses and injured wildlife.
Usually, pet owners or local clinics bring cases to the fund's attention, and owners don't have to be clients of Badger Veterinary Hospital to be recipients. Servantez hopes telling Ray's story doesn't encourage people to leave animals on his doorstep, but rather lets them know that help is available.
For example, the fund recently helped a girl pay for surgery for her horse, said Janet Pezzi, president of the fund's board. The girl had saved her money all summer but still didn't have enough for follow-up treatment, and her parents couldn't afford to pay the rest.
The boardómade up of Badger Veterinary Hospital employees and community membersóreviews each application, looking at individual circumstances and need, Pezzi said.
"We like to see an individual who's taken very good care of their animal in the past," she said.
Steve Servantez and his wife, Julie, took Ray home after his surgery, which cost more than $800. Besides stitches where his eyes should be, you'd hardly know the cat had a disability. He occasionally feels his way past furniture or other obstacles, but he's already getting to know his way around and gets along with humans and other pets.
"It's amazing how he navigates, how he learns," Steve said.
The fund is intended to help more animals such as Ray, but it's been hurt in the recent economic crisis, Pezzi said. It relies on private donations, employee donations and corporate sponsors, but it's lost sponsors in the past year, she said.
Meanwhile, veterinary costs are rising the same as other health care costs.
"We've had to turn people away where we really didn't want to," Pezzi said.
As for Ray, he seems to have found a good home with the Servantez family. When asked if they were going to keep him, Julie and Steve each took a deep breath.
"If I can find a better home for him, he can go, but I'm not actively looking," Julie said.
Donations to the Badger Animal Fund can be sent to Badger Animal Fund, P.O. Box 2258, Janesville, WI 53546.
Call (608) 754-1888 for more information.