“Grants help ailing pets as families struggle.” By Stacy Finz. San Francisco Chronicle. July 3, 2012. San Francisco Aid for Animals was founded by five local veterinarians who noticed a steep rise in the euthanasia of pets with treatable conditions because of the bad economy. It’s a project of the San Francisco Veterinary Medical Association and financially sponsored by Community Initiatives, a network of organizations dedicated to building healthy communities. This week the nonprofit began dispensing grants to 60 San Francisco veterinarians for $350 each. They can award them to pet owners of their choice. There’s only one catch – the vets have to match the money with their own services of equal value. “So that grant of $350 now becomes $700 to a pet owner,” said Dr. Anne Marie Benfatto, one of the founders of SF Aid, adding that the hope is fewer people will put their pets down or bring them to shelters. “It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “No one wants to put their pet to sleep, but for some they feel like they have no choice. What we found is there is help for homeless pet owners and for the very poor, but not for middle-class people who have hit on hard times.” Although no one collects statistics on the number of treatable animals euthanized in the Bay Area, Benfatto said she and her colleagues began noticing a rise in 2009, a year after the economy took a dive. Dr. Alan Stewart, another SF Aid founder, said VCA San Francisco Veterinarian Specialists, where he works, sees one to two financially related euthanasias every week or so. It’s become apparent that pet owners grappling with putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their head are being forced to turn away from their animals because they can’t afford the costly vet bills, Benfatto said. In order for pet owners to be eligible for the grant money, they must be in financial need and have exhausted other resources, such as pet insurance or low-interest pet-care loans. And their animals – reptiles, birds, even pot-bellied pigs are eligible – must be treatable (so no chronic illnesses) with a likely good outcome, Benfatto said.