NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A new program aims to protect pets from neglect by helping people who can’t afford veterinary services.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan said Tuesday that people who call a hotline can get information about four animal hospitals in the borough that are participating in the program.

“They could call our hotline, we’re going to put them in touch with a veterinary service, and for a discounted fee or sometimes no fee these veterinarians will dedicate their time and their services to care for their pets,” Donovan told 1010 WINS.

Donovan said the program could help people avoid arrest for neglect.

“We didn’t want people neglecting their pets because they couldn’t afford to find the care for their pet,” Donovan said. “People who have to make a real hard choice because of financial restraints, this is an avenue where they could still reach out and get care for their injured or sick pet without having to worry about the cost.”

Steps are taken to prove financial hardship.

The DA announced the program with officials from Animal Care & Control of NYC and the Veterinary Centers of America.

Assistant District Attorney Jane Grinberg helped spearhead the program. She’s described as a “fervent animal lover” who’s an expert in prosecuting abuse cases.

Residents are still urged to report animal cruelty by calling 911 or 311.

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