Letters to the Editor

Readers voice opinions on topics from nonprofit spay-neuter clinics to introverted veterinarians.
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Sep 01, 2012
By dvm360.com staff

I can understand the need for some individuals to seek out low-cost spay and neuter operations, but Alabama HB 156 is not a bill about low-cost spay and neuter services and blocking the public's access to those services. Alabama HB 156 is about a group of wealthy individuals who are trying to change the ownership legislation portions of the Alabama Veterinary Practice Act.

The Alabama practice act was put in place to protect the consumer from less-than-adequate care based on price. I know doctors who have personally experienced distressed owners whose newly aquired pets were spayed or neutered at an unnamed local low-cost facility in our market. These patients suffered postsurgical complications, and instead of assisting with these complications, the facility told the pet owners they would need to go find a veterinarian to assist them.

So did the consumer benefit from the low-cost surgery? Why did the facility not take care of these pet owners when surgical complications occured? How much more did the owner have to spend in order to correct the postsurgical complications caused by the low-cost operation?

Plus, how many of these surgeries are truly low-cost? I have in my possession an invoice in which the low-cost spay-neuter facility charged the client $220. Was this low-cost? How about the reloacation of these animals in moving vans that appear to be unairconditioned or heated? Some animals are transferred as far as 60 to 120 miles round-trip after having had major abominal surgery. Where is the standard of care?

Also, does the public know that these nonprofits "pad" their surgery fees with grants to their operations to cover many of their expenses? The surgery's true costs are hidden from the public, and the facility retains the benefits of a nonprofit tax status. Then these facilities engage in campaigns against local vets "who charge too much and are greedy," using the state legislature to do so.

I realize that if your publication revealed how much revenue some of the managers, owners, directors and veterinary professionals are pulling out of these "low-cost" facilities in payroll and incomes, it could be an embarrasment to the facilities and make our professional community of veterinarians look like uncaring, greedy ogres for exposing the truth. In reality we are not that at all. I know many collegues who perform low-cost surgery for spay and neuter patients. The hours they have given away would add up to the GDP of some smaller countries.

How about taking a look at what these operations do to surrounding practice owners who have school loans in excess of $100,000, facility costs of $300,000 to $500,000 and neither the time nor desire to sit and write for grant money so they can support operational expenses. But I know many of their spay and neuter prices are the same as low-cost facilities in the area. These veterinary professionals will take responsibility for the patient's care after the surgery at no cost whereas the local facility will not, according to the experience of many local veterinary hospitals.

I've got a great story for you: It's about a young woman and mother of three who had a dream to open her own facility after 10 years of practice and has worked for two years without a paycheck in order to meet the financial needs of her patients' owners and staff in her two-year-old practice. How about telling some of those stories?

—STEVEN TANNER
MANAGING DIRECTOR, KST VETERINARY SERVICES LEEDS, ALA.