In a time of crisis for many, one of our founders reflects on the origins of SFAfA and why our mission and your support is as vital today as ever.

                                                                                                             June, 2020

Dear Friends

“There was never any shortage of need, but 2008 was a jumping off point,” said Dr. Alan Stewart. “The animal shelters were stuffed. People were relinquishing their pets and shelters couldn’t take any more. Veterinarians were seeing euthanasias because owners couldn’t pay for vet care. When you see people who can’t afford basic care, that’s really when it hurts.” 

Dr. Stewart knew he could save pets with treatable conditions by helping owners pay their vet bills. He also knew that it would be an emotional gift as well as a financial gift. He formed San Francisco Aid for Animals (SFAfA) with three other vets, Dr. Anne Marie Benfatto, Dr. Chris Anderson and Dr. Ilana Strubel. Dr. Stewart said, “It really did start out of 2008 and out of that need.” Together, the founders arrived at a vet-driven nonprofit model where SFAfA would make a grant of a given amount towards the bill and the primary vet would match it in donated services. The client would pay the remainder. Ideally, costs were divided evenly, allowing the client’s money to go three times as far. Now, we are proud that many of the hospitals contribute substantially more in services than we do in grant funds.

We want to get the money out as fast as we can to help the pets of people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today we face another financial crisis. Over 20 million Americans lost their jobs in April. In California alone, the number of workers filing for unemployment benefits points toward an unemployment rate of nearly 25 percent (estimated 4.6 million) without jobs. The East Bay Times reports, “In contrast, during the recession of a decade ago, the number of people unemployed in California peaked at 2.2 million, and the jobless rate reached a high of 12.3 percent.”

Our 2020 recession differs from the 2008 recession in one way: we are spending more time than ever with our animal companions as we shelter in place. “People are craving that animal unconditional love, so shelters are empty and people are not relinquishing pets,” Dr. Stewart said. However, without a paycheck, some owners are going to need help paying the emergency veterinary bills for their beloved animal companions. Even before COVID-19 the majority of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck. In a recent “Taking Count” survey,  nearly 1 in 5 people surveyed in the Bay Area had less than $400 in savings for an emergency.

“Vets are small businesses and they are also struggling,” Dr. Stewart said. Overheads are huge and profits are slim. “I have a good friend who is a veterinarian and she said we’re not going to take a salary for the next month or two or three, we want to hold on to our employees.” Historically every dollar donated by the SFAfA has been matched with a dollar of donated vet services. Recognizing the financial challenges that vets face now, SFAfA is temporarily waiving the requirement of donated vet services. “We want to get the money out as fast as we can to help the pets of people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Stewart.

With both vets and clients struggling, SFAfA’s role is more important than ever. Right now, vets, animals and their caregivers are all truly “in it together”.

“Our pets touch us on such a deeply profound level. Over the years I’ve learned that my job is to protect the human-animal bond. That’s not something you learn from a book,” Dr. Stewart said. Despite his illustrious 30 year career as an award-winning vet, he says that creating SFAfA is the thing he is “most proud of.” He continued, “It’s a unique organization and there’s nothing quite like it elsewhere. SFAfA is an all-volunteer organization so we maximize the money that goes to professional medical care for animals in need.” With both vets and clients struggling, SFAfA’s role is more important than ever. Right now, vets, animals and their caregivers are all truly “in it together.” 

Thank you for your ongoing support of the SFAfA mission. With your help and our continuing partnership with more than 90 local veterinarians, we can save more animals from euthanasia or surrender because their owners are faced with unexpected bills for urgent care that they cannot pay. The financial hardship created by the COVID-19 pandemic means that the need is as great today as it was when we first started our work.

SFAfA is entirely volunteer-run. We have no paid staff and no office to support, so that the maximum amount possible of your donation goes directly to keeping companion animals and their families together. Please take a moment to write a check and return it to our mailing address at the end of this email or visit our website at to make a donation. Any amount you can afford is greatly appreciated. With your support, we can continue to help more animals in our community. Your generous donation will allow the next dog, cat, bird or other companion animal facing an emergency, to stay with their family.

Thank you,
Kathy Hajopoulos 
Program Chair 
SFAfA Advisory Committee 

Alan P. Stewart, DVM, DACVIM
SFAfA Advisory Committee

No matter the amount, your tax-deductible gift will make a difference. Does your employer have a matching contribution program? Consider including Community Initiatives / SFAfA in that program. Your dollar could go even further!

San Francisco Aid for Animals-SFAfA• A fiscally sponsored project of Community Initiatives, 501(c)(3), 1000 Broadway, Suite 480, Oakland, CA 94607
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