Eliana Acuña is a pensioner in southern Chile who lives with her husband, who is wheelchair bound and unable to work. They depend solely on their pensions and money is always in short supply. When they realized that their beloved elderly rescue dog, Sumisa, was suffering significantly, they knew they had a painful decision to make. Not only was it a difficult decision because she was a member of their family, but also because Chilean pensions are very small and the cost of the procedure would have a significant financial impact on them.

The Acuñas had found Sumisa in the streets of Valdivia, Chile, many years before and she had lived with them as part of the family ever since. A Chilean mixed breed, ‘Sumisa’ means submissive and obedient in Spanish. Due to their extremely limited income, Eliana and her husband have no choice but to live on the second floor of a house. As Sumisa got older, the stairs gradually became more and more difficult for her to climb. She also started presenting other serious age-related health issues. Eliana and her husband were very concerned that Sumisa might fall down the stairs, worsening her already frail condition. Deciding it was time to say goodbye to Sumisa was not an easy decision. They considered her part of the family, one of their children, but they knew it wasn’t fair to let her keep suffering. Given their mobility issues, Dr Angelica Romero from the nearby veterinary clinic, the Global Alliance for Animals and People (GAAP), went to their home to perform the euthanasia. Their beloved Sumisa was able to pass away pain-free, in her own home, accompanied by her own family, the people who had loved her all her life.

Eliana and her new dog, Princesa

The GAAP is a Chilean-based NGO (non-for-profit) that runs a veterinary clinic with a very unique payment structure: taking into consideration the extreme poverty in many parts of Chile, it charges their clients based on their household income. As a pensioner, Eliana was charged just 20% of the regular cost for the procedure. In Eliana’s case, to ease the financial burden even more, the GAAP allowed Eliana to pay for Sumisa’s euthanasia in small monthly installments. This allowed the family to access the much-needed veterinary care as soon as possible and still pay for the heavily discounted service, as Eliana insisted on paying for the dignified end her dear friend deserved.

The GAAP team was very happy to see Eliana back at their clinic shortly after Sumisa passed away. She had brought her new rescue puppy, Princesa, a 2.5-month-old Chilean street dog, in to meet the team and have her examined, vaccinated and dewormed. Despite living on an extremely small pension, the Acuñas recognize the importance of being responsible pet owners and prioritize this within their limited budget.

Thanks to The GAAP, many low-income families in Chile are able to access quality health care for their companion animals. Without this unique payment structure, most of these animals would not be able to receive any veterinarian treatment whatsoever, making them extremely susceptible to highly preventable and treatable diseases, in addition to worsening the severe street dog population problem that Chile is battling.