Kolija’s Homecoming

Kolija is seen here making his emotional return home.

Last week we shared the sad story of Kolija, the beloved pet dog at And-Hof Animals, an upstate New York farm animal sanctuary. Tragically, Kolija was shot on purpose at close range while running away from the shooter on New Year’s day.

A police investigation is ongoing and this compelling story has been covered by major news media.

Thanks to so many of you who donated–and with HEALS’ financial aid intervention–Kolija was able to have the complex, specialized leg-conserving surgery he needed. He will have a long recovery and rehab ahead, but is doing well so far and is expected to return to normal eventually.

Please consider donating to HEALS so we can help other pets like Kolija whose owners are financially struggling and would otherwise have no other choice but to euthanize their cherished companion animal. The need is great and the costs of veterinary care have risen dramatically!
Thank you once again for your generous donations to help Kolija. Large or small, your contributions make a big difference in the lives of local pets and their devoted families living right here in our own communities.

HEALS is one of the best animal charities to donate to. Your donation provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community.

HEALS Talks Turkey

By Joan Eve Quinn, Program Director

At holiday time, we’re especially grateful for the generous donors who enable us to provide life-saving veterinary care for pets in need all year round–and for the bounty of goodness we share on Thanksgiving. 

To help keep your companion animals safe on the impending big feast day, the experts at HEALS have compiled the following list of safety tips:  

Friends and family (and pets) love to gather in the kitchen during holiday meal prep time, but please watch out for some hidden dangers that may be lurking there: 

  • If your pet is on a special diet for medical reasons, don’t break the protocol just because it’s a holiday. If you aren’t certain whether to feed your pet certain holiday foods, consult your veterinarian first.
  • Hot foods can cause mouth and throat burns–serve your four-legged feasters at room temperature!  
  • Bite-size pieces are best for avoiding choking hazards. Fully cooked vegetables are softer and safer to swallow than raw veggies.
  • Avoid feeding your pets any foods on toothpicks or skewers! Don’t assume your pet will nibble the food off and leave the toothpick or skewer behind. 


Delicious dos
Here’s some traditional American holiday fare that’s generally safe for pets to chow down on:
–Green beans
–Sweet potato (avoid sugary preparations)
–Boneless, skinless turkey breast without seasonings. Bones can damage your pet’s digestive tract and skin contains fat, which can be hard to digest.
–Carrots and peas

Dangerous don’ts
Companion animals can’t gobble down all the foods we can. Avoid these fixin’s:
–Raisins, Xylitol and chocolate. Sweets can contain ingredients that are poisonous to pets. Chocolate and sweets containing Xylitol are especially harmful. If you want to share treats with your pets, it’s best to buy treats made especially for them.
–Fatty foods such as turkey skin, butter, bacon, greasy meats, cream and other full-fat dairy products
–Raw meats
–Macadamia nuts
–Garlic and onions
–Cooked or raw bones
–Heavily seasoned, spicy or salty foods
–Raw bread dough can cause gas and possibly dangerous bloating

Talkin’ trash
We’ve all seen it: Four-legged pilgrims get a whiff of tasty treats, journey to the source and land at the rock in search of irresistible nibbles. But there’s no newfound freedom for them! Turkey pieces could be deadly. Dispose of all bones, other scraps, bags, strings, and other packaging in a well sealed garbage bag and place it in a tightly closed container.

Party hardy
Some pets are easily upset by visitors and hubbub. If your pet gets nervous around guests, put him or her in another room or in a crate with a favorite toy. You can also talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions to this common problem. 

Playing tag
Even if your pet is comfortable in a full house, keep a watchful eye when people enter or leave. More pets go missing during holidays than at any other time of year. Sadly, many are never recovered. They should always have proper identification on them, especially a microchip with your up-to-date, registered information.

Just in case
Some signs of sickness include sudden behavior changes, depression, discomfort or pain, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Always keep contact information for your nearest animal emergency clinic handy. If you suspect that your pet has eaten something potentially troublesome, you can call the ASPCA Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661).  

Happy harvest to you!
Have a little bit of vigilance and enjoy the many blessings of the Thanksgiving holiday to the fullest. May your day of feasting go as smoothly as home-made gravy and be as sweet as pumpkin pie. Happy Thanksgiving to all! 

HEALS is one of the best animal charities to donate to. Your donation provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners BVtruly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help to pay for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email

Thinking About Buying Health Insurance For Your Pet?

By Joan Eve Quinn, Program Director

HEALS urges pet owners to consider purchasing health insurance for their furry family members. Having a pet health insurance policy in place to cover visits to your family veterinarian’s practice—and at advanced 24-hour specialty and emergency hospitals—can help tremendously in times of financial and emotional stress.   

A pet health insurance plan can be especially valuable in multi-pet households. Certain specialized procedures and therapies, such as orthopedic surgeries and chemotherapy treatments to fight cancer, tend to be quite expensive. In many cases, the insurance company reimburses you for a large percentage of the costs as determined by your plan’s coverage allowances. Usually, pet owners pay the veterinary practice fist and subsequently receive reimbursement from the insurance company.     

We recommend buying a policy early in your pet’s life to maximize the benefits you’ll receive. As pets age, benefits often decrease and pre-existing conditions may be excluded. A good approach would be to discuss the topic with your primary care veterinarian during your new pet’s first wellness visit.

HEALS Chief Executive Officer, Bernadette Vinci, MS, LHEP, urges pet owners to buy insurance if they can afford it, but she also offers a less costly alternative. “If you can’t afford the premiums, you can start a pet savings account with automatic deductions from your paycheck if you’re currently employed. But that can be somewhat risky since you never know when a pet will become ill or injured and those veterinary bills can quickly mount up. So insurance gives you better peace of mind,” she added.   

 The marketplace offers a broad array of pet health insurance policies. Quite a few websites allow you to compare coverage and pricing across a wide range of plans. Research and compare carefully; coverage options and out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles, premiums, and co-pays, vary greatly and exclusions may apply.  

If you need help to pay for dog or cat veterinary services–or for any other type of pet–insurance can make it possible for your animal companion to receive appropriate treatment and supportive care. To help you decide whether pet health insurance is right for you—and for buying advice—here’s an article from trusted, unbiased Consumer Reports: 

HEALS is one of the best animal charities to donate to. Your donation provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community.

One Week – Two Lives Saved!

Thanks to our amazing donors, we were able to play a big part in saving the lives of two cherished pets in the last week!

Sayi – a five-month-old French Bulldog suffering from a debilitating spinal cord condition, and Ruby – an English Bulldog pushing through the end of a serious bout of pneumonia. 

We’re pleased to report that both pets are recovering well. Because of you, they will spend this Thanksgiving at home with their loving families. 

Would you like to donate to help save animals? HEALS is one of the best, most effective animal charities to donate to.

Your gift provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help paying for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email us at

Take a Bite Out of Scary Frostbite

By Andrew Tonra, HEALS Social Media Expert

Winter’s in full swing! Although it’s been warmer than usual until now, a fierce cold snap is approaching and we’re still looking at a few months of possibly subfreezing temperatures. In the coldest months of the year, frostbite is a real possibility for many of our furry friends–and it can be very serious. 

Here are some helpful tips on what to look out for, how to address frostbite, and how to just plain avoid it in the first place.

The symptoms

Frostbite occurs when temperatures are below freezing. Paws, tails, and ears are the highest risk areas for cats and dogs. Any dampness in these areas can compound the risk. Frostbite is clinically identified by discoloration of the skin (looking gray or blue), coldness and rigidness of affected areas, pain, swelling, blisters, or even dead/blackened skin. 

Take fast action

This scary condition is extremely serious. If left untreated, frostbite can result in permanent damage to the affected areas, infection, and even death. If you suspect your companion animal is suffering from frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately. If it’s after hours, bring your pet to the nearest 24-hour emergency facility as soon as possible.

Takeaway tips

In the meantime–or if you’re unable to bring your pet to the hospital–here are a few tips for home care:

  • Quickly move your pet inside to a warm, dry environment.
  • Check your pet for hypothermia. A core temperature of less than 95 F is indicative of hypothermia. Violent shivering, lethargy, and a weak pulse are also signs of hypothermia.
  • If you believe your pet may be suffering from hypothermia, always treat those symptoms first by covering your pet in warm blankets or towels. You can even use warm water bottles placed on the outside of the blankets to speed up the process.
  • Never massage or try to rub the affected area.
  • Begin to warm the affected areas with warm water. You want the water to be comfortably warm to the touch, but not hot. Don’t use heating pads or hair dryers.  After the affected areas have been warmed with water, gently pat your animal dry and wrap them with warm clothes or blankets.
  • Again, the best thing to do is to take your pet to the animal hospital right away. Always keep your veterinarian’s phone number handy along with contact information for your nearest 24-hour practice.

An ounce of prevention…

Avoidance is the best strategy:

  • If it’s below freezing, keep your outings brief.
  • If you have a pet that’s especially susceptible to frostbite, try providing some clothing—a pet jacket, sweater or even booties can help.
  • Products are available that can be used on the bottom of paws to help insulate the vulnerable spots in between the hard paw pads. Not all pets will respond well to these options, so try different ones to find out which methods work best for you.

Part of HEALS’ mission is to educate the public about best practices for caring for pets. We’ve all heard the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Surely, it’s wise to avoid expensive veterinary procedures in the first place! 

Bite back against frostbite

Looking out for frostbite on your own animals and other pets you see or come into contact with is a great way to help ensure their safety while spreading knowledge about animal welfare.

Would you like to donate to help save animals? HEALS is one of the best, most effective animal charities to donate to. Your gift provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help paying for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email us at

A Pet For a Holiday Gift?

–  What you need to think about before making that forever purchase – 

(Brewster, NY)  How much is that doggy in the window? What could be a better holiday gift–a puppy or a kitty cat!  Dr. Jason Berg, DMV, DACVIM, Chairman of the Board of of HEALS, and founder of Guardian Veterinary Specialists in Brewster NY, feels strongly that that people who are thinking of getting a pet for the holidays need to put time into this decision before deciding to add a furry friend to the family. This is a huge holiday gift purchase as well as a financial and emotional commitment for up to twenty years.  
Dr. Berg says move slowly and think about the following:
  • Are you and/or your family ready for a pet? 
  • What age dog is best for you and/or the family
  • Depending on the size of your apartment or house what size dog would be most appropriate?
  • Is there a backyard or will the dog need to be walked?
  • Is adoption, breeder or local pet store the way to go?
  • What are the financial implications that are involved with pet ownership?
  • What is involved in preparing for a new pet and taking care of a pet in the long term
  • Who will be responsible for pet care/walks/feeding during the day?
  • What are the pros and cons of purchasing a pet insurance plan?  
  • No one ever wants anything to go wrong with their new family member, but it happens – when to seek emergency veterinary care. 
  • Be aware of the signs of parvovirus, a serious disease that can affect puppies. 
  • Traveling with pets or boarding them – how to decide, prepare and prevent contagious diseases. 
“There is nothing better than adding a dog or cat to our lives, but there are so many people out there who are dealing with emotional and financial distress,” says Dr. Berg. “HEALS was founded because many people can’t afford the veterinary care and the financial surprises of having a pet.  But, oftentimes, it’s a surprise because instead of researching the responsibilities of pet ownership, it may be a spontaneous purchase or adoption and people may not realize this is a long-term commitment.” 
HEALS  is a new nonprofit organization dedicated to saving pets’ lives by helping owners pay for essential veterinary care when they can’t afford it. 

HEALS, a charitable 501c3 organization, was established in 2020 with the mission to end economic euthanasia and animal surrender due to an inability to pay.  HEALS endeavors to keep pet owners who qualify for financial assistance and their pets together longer so they can enjoy a better quality of life. The non-profit was started because of a universal love of animals and an appreciation of the special sustaining bond that develops between pets and their owners.  HEALS will be working with veterinary partners in New York – Bronx, Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange and Dutchess Counties; Connecticut – Fairfield County and New Jersey – Bergen County.  For more info. go to

Gift Your Pet Some Love – But Not Chocolate on Valentine’s Day!

By Joan Eve Quinn, Program Director

Valentine’s Day delivers a joyfully warm respite from the cold winter chill. It’s also a good excuse to binge on sweet treats–chocolate being among our favorites.

From tiny tasty truffles to tall table-top sculptures, who doesn’t wish they had some chocolate right now? But it has a dark side for our pets: Chocolate and many other candies can cause stomach discomfort at the very least and serious illness–and even death–at the very worst. Even some familiar flowers pose a risk.

To help keep pets safe this Valentine’s Day, HEALS issues this all-four-paws alert for some common products that may be harmful:

  • Chocolate: Yes, it’s delicious, but the problem is your pets may think so too. You’ve seen how persistent pets can be when they’re trying to raid the yummy stuff: Sneaking into closed rooms, knocking packages off counters, and ripping wrappings open. The amount and type of chocolate–in relation to your pet’s weight and general health condition–will determine if chocolate toxicity will develop. Chocolate can cause gastrointestinal upset as well as life-threatening heart arrhythmias.
  • Xylitol: A naturally occurring sugar alcohol, xylitol is found in many popular candies. For pets, ingestion of this ingredient can lead to life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and in the worst cases, liver failure. Dr. Jason Berg, board-certified veterinary neurologist/internist and HEALS Chairman of the Board, warns “Xylitol is a deadly product found in candy and common snacks that are often given to pets, such as peanut butter. Make sure you read all ingredients in snacks and food before you give it to your pets.”
  • Calorie-laden dinner: Fatty and rich foods are simply not good for pets. Fatty foods can cause pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea and, in some cases, very severe illness.
  • Flowers: Many types of flowers and other greenery are highly toxic to pets if ingested. Some of the most toxic examples include:
  • Lilies can cause kidney failure
  • Amaryllis can cause vomiting and depression
  • Tulip and narcissus bulbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation
  • Oleander can cause heart arrhythmias
  • Cyclamen can cause vomiting and death
  • Autumn crocus can cause multi-organ damage and death
  • Foreign bodies: You never know what’s going to look like a tempting toy or treat to your pet. Even Valentine’s Day detritus left lying around, like wrapping paper and ribbon, can potentially cause a problem. Foreign material can sometimes lodge in the gastrointestinal tract, causing life-threatening obstructions or perforations.

HEALS urges you to seek immediate veterinary attention if you suspect that your pet has eaten something that may be harmful. Know where your nearest 24/7 emergency veterinary hospital is located. Keep the phone number handy and call ahead.

Valentine’s Day should be like a walk in the dog park. So take this to heart: Keep the sugary treats well out of your pet’s reach. Let there be lots of head butts, tail wagging, kisses, love, and pet-safe goodies instead!

For more information, you can call ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 and research a comprehensive list of toxic plants at

HEALS is one of the best animal charities to donate to. Your donation provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help paying for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email

Collaboration is Key for Saving Lives

We have had the honor or working with many dedicated animal lovers and their pets, but this case in particular was very special. Timothy and Cooper first came to our good friends at HEAL-Humanity Empathy Animal Love – Foundation with a very serious situation. Cooper was dealing with a burst tumor on his leg, and Timothy, a dedicated and loving dog dad, was running out of options.

HEAL agreed to help Timothy financially, but they were having trouble finding an animal hospital that would see Cooper soon enough. Time was running out, and Cooper’s condition was deteriorating. Our friends at HEAL decided to reach out to us to see if we could help them find a hospital to perform the surgery and cover the remaining costs. Luckily, we were able to find a great hospital with a surgeon willing to act quickly, and we chipped in what was needed to get Cooper the treatment to save his life

The stars aligned, and Cooper’s surgery was a success. He’s bouncing back much quicker than anticipated, and he is expected to make a full recovery. We’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Timothy quite a bit since the surgery and his positivity and gratitude are infectious. We are so happy for the the two of them. We actually just received word today that Cooper is headed home and has the last of his sutchers out! He’s even been “running around the backyard,” according to Timothy.

We are also feeling very encouraged having worked on this case together with HEAL. We have found that collaboration is not so common between non-profits like ourselves and HEAL, but that is a trend that we are happy to go against. With the rising cost of veterinary care, sometimes the only option to save a pet’s life may be to work together. After all, we all have the same goal at the end of the day: Keep families together.

We urge you to please donate to us today. Cases keep coming in, and it’s getting tougher and tougher to find hospitals that can take in the cases that we are trying to help. We are only able to save lives because of donations from people like you. Thank you.

Winter Weather Warning: Antifreeze Dangers

By Joan Eve Quinn, Program Director

Old man winter packs a punch of frigid weather risks for pets and antifreeze poisoning is among the worst of them. HEALS wants everyone to know that when a pet ingests antifreeze (ethylene glycol or EG) it’s a medical emergency that can result in acute kidney failure and death.

“Time is of the essence! Antifreeze is rapidly absorbed in the pet’s body and causes irreversible damage in hours,” warns Dr. Jason Berg, HEALS Chairman of the Board.

EG is a toxic chemical most commonly used in car radiators. However, it can also be found in some household items, including snow globes, eye masks, inks, and certain paints. Unfortunately, EG has a pleasantly sweet taste and may even create a warm feeling when it’s swallowed. Pets may be attracted to its flavor, because they’re curious, or if their water bowls are frozen over.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the first signs of antifreeze poisoning occur within 30 minutes to 12 hours and include:

  • “Walking drunk”
  • Drooling
  • Hyper-salivating
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Excessive thirst and urination

Twelve to 24 hours after a dog or cat has gotten into antifreeze, the initial signs appear to resolve, but underlying internal damage continues. Elevated heart rate, increase breathing effort, and dehydration may start to develop.

In cats, the following stage occurs 12-24 hours after getting into antifreeze. In dogs, this stage occurs 36-72 hours after severe kidney failure secondary to calcium crystals forming in the kidneys. Severe lethargy, coma, depression, vomiting, seizures, drooling, and lack of appetite may occur, states the Pet Poison Helpline.

Even a very small amount of antifreeze can be deadly. Because the first signs of toxicity appear to resolve after a while, this serious illness can initially be misdiagnosed or not taken seriously enough.

According to MSPCA-Angell, cats are more susceptible than dogs. The minimum dose that’s lethal in cats is roughly 3 milliliters (mls) per pound body weight. For dogs, 9-14 mls per pound body weight may cause death. Fatality rates for EG intoxication reported by top veterinary schools range from 44–70% for dogs and 78-96% for cats, states MSPCA-Angell.

Fortunately, you can protect your pets by taking the following steps: 

  • Close all antifreeze containers tightly and keep them out of sight.
  • Be aware of any spills, big or small, and clean them up promptly and completely.
  • Purchase pet-safe antifreeze, which is somewhat safer, but it’s still best to keep pets away from any and all chemicals.
  • Keep cats safely indoors!
  • Keep dogs on a leash or in a safely fenced-in area.
  • Be aware that pets can easily find antifreeze leaks in parking lots, driveways, and garages, on streets and curbs where cars are parked, and on farms and near garbage dumps.
  • Make sure outdoor pets always have non-frozen water available.

HEALS advises you to learn where your nearest 24/7 veterinary emergency facility is located and keep the phone number handy. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, seek veterinary medical attention immediately. For more information, you can call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

HEALS is one of the best animal charities to donate to. Your donation provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community.

Keep Your Pet Safe and Happy this Labor Day!

We hope you’re as excited as us for Labor Day weekend!  Labor Day is a fantastic long weekend to spend time outside with your friends, family, and of course — pets!  As we are all off to our destinations today, let’s not forget to take the necessary precautions to make sure that our pets are safe and comfortable during all Labor Day festivities.

The number one thing to be concerned with for any summer holiday and your pets is the heat.

When you’re outside with your pets, make sure that they ALWAYS have access to shade and fresh water. Never leave your pets unattended for long periods of time in the heat, and be sure to keep the air conditioning on throughout those extra hot days.  Also, always watch out for signs of heat stroke.  They include but are not limited to vomiting, tremors, or inability to walk.  If you notice any of these symptoms, do not wait.  Contact an emergency vet immediately.

We urge you to never leave your animal loose in your car.

Many of us will be getting into our cars for a road trip this morning.  We urge you to never leave your animal loose in your car.  The safest way to travel with your pet is with a kennel that is securely fastened with a seatbelt or seat saver.  Also, Never leave your pet alone in a hot care — even if you are parked in the shade or have your windows open.  Your car creates an oven-like effect that will make it hotter than the outside environment.

If you are attending a cookout, be weary of what you furry friend may get into.

Many of our favorites can be extremely harmful for our pets.  Alcohol, grapes, chocolate, onions, certain nuts or even dairy items can be extremely toxic to our pets (just to name a few).  Also, watch out for corn on the cob or cooked bones of any kind! Dogs are known to choke on large pieces of corn cob, and cooked bones can do severe damage to a pet that may ingest them.

Be ready for fireworks.

If you are ending your night with a display of fireworks, do your best to secure your pets somewhere quiet and safe.  It is best to be with them until the loud noises are over. Fireworks are known to cause pets to take off and run away — even if your animal may never otherwise do so.

Have fun this weekend, and keep these tips in mind! Our pets are members of our family, and it is very important to always consider their needs and best practices for these kinds of scenarios. 

Would you like to donate to help save animals? HEALS is one of the best, most effective animal charities to donate to. Your gift provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help paying for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email us at