When NJ Seniors Can’t Afford Dog Food or Vet Bills, This Program Steps In

Marty's Place, a dog sanctuary in Allentown, helps elderly New Jerseyans with prohibitive costs so that they don't have to part with their beloved pups.

Max Hill and his dog, Prada.

Max Hill received financial assistance for his dog, Prada, from Marty’s Place in Allentown. Photo: Courtesy of Debbie Williamson

When Prada, an elderly Maltese mix, began having heart problems, his owner, Max Hill, started selling his furniture to pay for Prada’s medical care. Hill, 69, who lives alone in Highland Park and subsists on social security, would be heartbroken without his dog.

But one day, at the veterinarian, he was forced to ask about putting Prada down. Seemingly on cue, the dog stood on his hind legs and started dancing. “Prada still had so much life,” Hill says.

Soon after, a social worker told Hill about the Senior Pet Assistance Program, sponsored by Marty’s Place, a sanctuary for elderly dogs in Allentown. In May 2023, Debbie Williamson, the program’s coordinator, visited Hill, promising to reimburse him for a month’s worth of medication and to send a six-month supply of Prada’s favorite dog food.

The program was launched in September 2022, when some older folks hit by high inflation were, regretfully, looking to give up their dogs. It provides qualifying owners with medicine, blood screening, food and checkups for their beloved pets. Those 60 and older, on a fixed income, with a dog age 7 or older, who live in Monmouth, Mercer, Middlesex or Ocean counties can apply. The program, which relies on donations, has helped more than 75 seniors keep their dogs. This “gets them out and gives them a reason for living,” says Williamson.

Prada, now 16, enjoys his daily walks. “He’s living a good life,” says Hill. “I’m humble and grateful.”

No one knows New Jersey like we do. Sign up for one of our free newsletters here. Want a print magazine mailed to you? Purchase an issue from our online store.

Read more News articles.