TILTON —The University of Illinois has received a grant for community medicine cases to help people who are struggling to provide health care to their animals.

“We would love to be able to keep animals in their homes,” said Melanie Clawson, volunteer coordinator/community outreach for the Vermilion County shelter.

Often, people will abandon or surrender animals because they can’t afford to give them medical care. This program is an effort to keep pets out of shelters.

To qualify, you must be a low-income family on federal or state assistance programs, such as food stamps, Social Security, unemployment, etc.

For people in a temporary situation, such as loss of a job, the shelter can provide some food for the animals, Clawson said.

“If there’s anything we can do to help a temporary situation … We’d rather do that than see the animals come here,” she said.

All services are provided on site at the Vermilion County Animal Regulations and Adoption Center on Catlin-Tilton Road, at no charge to the pet owners. However, the pet owner will need to complete a survey and provide proof of low income in order to receive the veterinary care. The veterinary staff can see up to six cases every Monday.

Services provided include: eye examinations, microchips, vaccinations, radiography, ultrasonography, dental care, urinalysis, fecal tests, skin and ear cytology, limited special surgeries and humane euthanasia.

For animals requiring blood work, blood will be collected and analyzed once the unit returns to the hospital. Pet owners will be called with results and plan moving forward once results are in.

If an animal needs care beyond what can be provided, the pet owner will be advised to bring the animal to the veterinary teaching department for further work-up. Financial assistance for chronic care of specialized treatment will be reviewed on a case-by-case scenario based on animal's age, prognosis, and available funds.

Appointments for this program, and also the low-cost spay/neuter program, must be made by calling the shelter at 431-2660.