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Heartbreaking Decisions

By Natassia Donohue for The Island Eye News

What would you do if your family pet was suddenly faced with a treatable illness or experienced a medical emergency? Would your family be able to afford the cost of veterinary care?

According to one American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals study, 40% of low-income pet owners who surrendered their pet to a shelter did so because they weren’t able to afford the cost of medical care. These families would have kept their pet if they had access to affordable care. Furthermore, 30% of those surrendering a pet said they would keep their pets if they had assistance in receiving low-cost or free pet food.

Pet Helpers is making it its mission to help families avoid having to make the heartbreaking decision of whether to surrender a pet. Levi’s Legacy is a new community program that aims to provide financial assistance to pet owners when a pet is facing illness or a medical emergency. Available to residents in the Lowcountry, Levi’s Legacy will provide grants of up to $250 to obtain initial diagnostic and medical treatment through working partnerships with several Charleston area veterinary practices. The grants are made possible through generous donations from the community and will be awarded based on need and the availability of funds.

“Levi’s Legacy is a much-needed community program, even before the pandemic hit, but even more so now,” said Melissa Susko, executive director of Pet Helpers. “We can all do our part to save adoptable animals, and it starts with helping responsible pet owners in our own neighborhood.”

Levi’s Legacy is named after Susko’s dog, Levi, who was rescued at just three weeks old. Levi was a pit bull and an ambassador for his breed, full of love and affection for every human and animal he encountered. Levi overcame a series of medical issues, including dermoid cysts and pancreatic cancer, before he succumbed to illness in late April of 2020 at the age of 10.

“Super Levi,” as he was affectionately known, served as the welcoming committee at Pet Helpers and, more importantly, as an inspiration to help all animals.

Donations can be made directly to Levi’s Legacy by visiting levis-legacy, where grant applications can also be submitted. Pet Helpers Adoption Center and Spay/Neuter Clinic is a 501(c)3 dedicated to serving the animals and community across the Lowcountry. Its mission is to end the euthanasia of all adoptable cats and dogs by keeping all animals until they are adopted, providing low-cost spay/neuter surgeries, offering humane education programs, pursuing animal-cruelty prosecution and initiating animal-welfare legislation.

For more information, visit

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