Defining "quality of care"
The ASBVME is responsible for licensing and inspecting nonprofit spay-neuter clinics in Alabama and has the authority to close
them if legal statutes and standards of care are not met. In June 2011, the board served the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic in
Birmingham, Ala., with a cease-and-desist order, stating that the clinic was in violation of the Alabama Veterinary Practice
Act requirement that a veterinarian own the clinic. The North Alabama Spay Neuter clinic in Huntsville, Ala., was denied its
permit and closed from March 2011 through Jan. 1, 2012, during ownership turnover, according to clinic board member Jane Jatusso.
She said Pitman refused to inspect the facility without a contract proving veterinary ownership. Pitman would not comment
on the incident. The clinic was eventually purchased by Joy A. Baird, DVM, inspected and reopened in January.
In his letter to the ASBVME, Welch said, "By providing an environment of non-veterinarian supervision and non-veterinarian
management of the entire veterinary facility, as evidenced in our investigations, the standard of care has been greatly compromised
thus lending less protection to the public."
And yet, at the time of publication, all four of the state's nonprofit clinics, including the Alabama Animal Alliance Spay/Neuter
Clinic in Montgomery, Ala., and the Wiregrass Spay/Neuter Alliance in Dothan, Ala., are open and continue to operate under
the jurisdiction of the ASBVME.
The actions of the ASBVME, the temporary closing of the Huntsville clinic and the resulting public outcry from spay-neuter
advocates throughout the state prompted the introduction of HB 156 earlier this year. Although the cease-and-desist order
and the closure of the North Alabama Spay Neuter clinic were executed under the Veterinary Practice Act's veterinary ownership
provisions, the ASBVME opposition to HB 156 has focused on quality of care. Welch did say he believes one cannot exist without
"We're there to protect the public. We protect the public by regulating the profession," Welch said of the board's purpose.
"Ownership ensures that the public knows that [a clinic's] veterinarian is regulated."
Mark Nelson, executive director of the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic, maintains that the clinic practice was and is owned by
William B. Weber, DVM. The 501(c)(3) owns the building. Nelson told DVM Newsmagazine that while he does not want to seem confrontational toward the ASBVME or opponents of HB 156, "I will defend our quality
of care." He dismisses the notion that the care provided at Alabama's spay-neuter clinics is subpar. "We had a surprise inspection
in 2011," Nelson says. "The inspector was very professional. He did a very good job."
Nelson says the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic received a positive review: "The facility was in excellent shape." One of the few
things the inspector requested was that the clinic post an Occupational Safety and Health Administration plan in the break
room. "Quality of care—[this opposition] is not about quality of care—believe me," Nelson says.