Vet care 'fur' free: Vaccinations, microchipping and more if on low income

If you’re on a low income or benefits and you have pets, you could be entitled to cheap or free vet fees.

The RSPCA may have a high profile – with 160 branches across England and Wales and regular campaigns for animal welfare – but it also runs a low-key financial assistance scheme to help people on state benefits with veterinary fees along with subsidised neutering schemes through private vets.

Am I eligible?

Eligibility criteria will vary slightly because each RSPCA branch is registered as a separate charity.

We spoke to one branch – the Finchley, Golders Green, Hendon & District Branch – to discover the specifics of the scheme. However, you should confirm with your own local branch if you’re eligible.

You’ll need proof that you’re on one of the following benefits as well as proof of address (to ensure you live in the branch’s catchment area) and valid ID:

Income-related employment support allowance, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, pension credit (not the state pension), universal credit and income support.

Use our 10-minute Benefits Checker to see if you may be eligible for any of the benefits above.

If you’re not eligible, our guide to Cheap Pet Insurance may help with your costs.

What can I get for my pet?

You’re likely to pay less at an RSPCA branch – clinics run by the charity generally have a heavily subsidised consultation fee and the cost of any drugs and treatment is subsidised further. You may also be able to get free neutering.

At the Finchley branch only non-emergency preventative treatment is provided for cats, dogs and other small furry animals.

This includes vaccinations, microchipping, flea and worm treatment and minor complaints.

The branch also works with other charities for neutering – for cats, details of this can be found at www.cats.org.uk/c4 while dog owners are recommended to contact the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital in Camden.

Contact your local branch for more information or to book an appointment.

How much will the treatments cost me?

It’s not a free service, but highly subsidised. A typical puppy/kitten package which includes the primary two-part vaccination, a flea treatment and a worming tablet costs £40. From a private vet this could cost anywhere from £70 to £100.

The subsidised consultation fee is £15 (it could cost between £30 and £60 at a private vet).

It’s always worth contacting your local branch first to ask if they’d be able to help out financially.

What general advice is there if you care for animals?

The RSPCA told us it promotes five basic animal welfare needs:

A suitable place to live – Animals should have the right type of home, including shelter, enough space, and somewhere comfortable to rest and hide.
A healthy diet – Animals should have access to fresh, clean water all the time and should be given the right type and amount of food to keep them fit and healthy.
The ability to behave normally – Animals should have enough space and the right kind of facilities to allow them to behave normally.
The company he or she needs – Animals should be given appropriate company. Some animals should have company and some should be kept on their own.
To stay healthy – Animals should be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease and should be treated by a vet if they are sick or injured.

Can I get help from anywhere else?

If you don’t have an RSPCA branch near you, other charities offer a similar free or subsidised vet service, including Blue Cross and the PDSA.