GOWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Pets can bring so much joy into our lives, but like any other living being, they can become ill or have an accident. A visit to an emergency vet can cost hundreds of dollars. What if you can't afford that?
Linda Hepler is the founder and president of Hope Before Heaven, a non-profit she started in 2012 to make sure no pet owner had to euthanize their pet because they can't afford emergency vet care.
"It's the most helpless feeling. And I don't want anybody to go through that," she said.
Seven years ago, Hepler's dog Asha suddenly became ill. Although she and her husband were able to afford the care, Asha didn't make it.
While at the emergency animal hospital, heartbroken over the loss of their beloved dog, Hepler said she also felt heartbroken for the people there who could not afford care for their pets.
"A lot of people were forced to resort to financial euthanization," she said.
The next day, Hepler got started on Hope Before Heaven. The organization covers all eight counties of Western New York and runs on donations only.
Hepler oversees the organization and answers calls 24/7, every day.
Hope Before Heaven also expanded its services to include a Home 'til Heaven, a sort of hospice for animals. The special needs sanctuary only take in blind, deaf, paralyzed and senior animals, and so far there are 12 dogs.
Hepler said she's been able to help nearly 1,500people and their pets since 2012.
"We are trying to give hope before heaven to a local family pet in need, so that today is not the day that they go to heaven," she said.