Cedar Rapids animal nonprofit connects pets with vets during pandemic

Critter Crusaders began its "Pets to Vets" program to help elderly pet owners get their pets to appointments. (Mary Green/KCRG)
Critter Crusaders began its "Pets to Vets" program to help elderly pet owners get their pets to appointments. (Mary Green/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: May. 13, 2020 at 11:27 PM CDT
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The volunteers with Critter Crusaders have made sure Iowa’s animals are taken care of for the last decade-plus, helping injured, sick, homeless, and abused pets get healthy.

That work doesn’t stop because of a pandemic, according to co-founder Jan Erceg.

“We thought, ‘What can we do to make this something where we’re able, finally, to give back to the people that love animals?’” said Erceg, who also serves as the nonprofit’s medical coordinator.

So in the last two months, Critter Crusaders launched a new “Pets to Vets” program alongside four veterinary clinics in Cedar Rapids — Frey Pet Hospital, Edgewood Animal Hospital, Cedar Rapids Animal Hospital, and Blairs Ferry Pet Hospital.

If owners need help retrieving their pet supplies after they’ve paid for them, all they have to do is call one of those clinics.

“The vet clinics contact us directly, and we dispatch one of our about 16 volunteers that we have for this program, and usually within 45 minutes, we’ll do food pickups, medication pickups, and delivery,” Erceg said. “In fact, one of our guys took a great, big bag of dog food the other day on his motorcycle. We loved that!”

Volunteers will even bring the pets themselves to and from their vet appointments.

“A lot of our members and volunteers in Critter Crusaders, many of us are retired paramedics, retired police lieutenants, retired fire dispatchers, that sort of thing, so we kind of have the system down pretty good,” Erceg said.

Pets to Vets is specifically geared toward pet owners 70 and older, and Critter Crusaders offers the service for free because Erceg said they just want to do something good, even if the circumstances themselves aren’t.

“We don’t want anything in return, except for people to continue that wonderful bond with their pets,” Erceg said.

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