In the year 2016

In the year 2016

Legal guardianships, patient rights, skyrocketing insurance rates, overcrowded humane shelters, no one can afford a pet. Think it can't happen? Think again
Jun 01, 2004

Qui vult dare parva non debet magna rogare." ~~ He who wishes to give little shouldn't ask for much.

Springfield Animal Clinic - Springfield , USA

May 15, 2016: 8 a.m.

Rebecca Swain waits at the reception area. She had just walked inside through the double entry hallway. In order to enter the veterinary office she had swiped her client ID card on the weatherproof reader and the receptionist had activated the outer door in order to let her and "Petey" inside.

Rebecca was trying to be patient, but Petey, her 6-month-old Bishon Frise, was spinning on his leash. Petey was to be neutered and needed some additional vaccinations and heartworm medication.

In a few moments the receptionist peers through the double pane Plexiglas that separates her from the waiting area. She smiles and hands Rebecca a pile of papers to sign.

Far different experience Rebecca thinks to herself how, as a little girl, going to her hometown veterinarian had been a far different experience. The building was much more open and "user friendly." She remembers the vet being open and more social and knew the family on a more personal level.

Just then the receptionist directs Rebecca to a small, enclosed area for her to sign the necessary paperwork.

With Petey spinning by the leash on her left wrist, Rebecca tries to read over the paperwork involved. Some of the language is quite cryptic and legalistic. Rebecca will need to sign as the legal guardian for Petey.

Another document lists in detail the potential hazards of the surgery. Most of the hazards mentioned death and long-term disability in rare cases.

Another document is a disclosure and release form detailing the "individual rights" of the patient with respect to the guardian.

An addendum page asks Rebecca to verify that Petey had not been married in any civil ceremony and/or had been certified as legally married in any state or municipality of the union and had not been pledged to act or stand as "stud" for another guardian's pet.

Language in each document stated that Rebecca had to sign away any right to bring suit against the veterinary hospital in the event of complications.

The final piece of paper was a promissory note to pay all the surgical costs in the event that the insurance carrier defaulted or would not pay. She cynically notes that the minimum fee that was stated in the estimate for neutering either by chemical or surgical means exceeded her monthly house payment. She had no choice. City ordinance now requires sterilization. Fifty percent of that fee will be split between the city and state taxing bodies. She left Petey and cried all the way to work.

Springfield Humane Society - Board of Directors Meeting

May 15, 2016: 7 p.m.

Helen Hickok jumps up and yells at Sarah Bankester. It was getting ugly and the monthly proceedings had just turned hot again.

This had been the norm for several months and things were not getting better. Sarah Bankester is the attorney for the city of Springfield and had been a longtime animal activist in the area. Sarah had also been active in recent years in helping to nurse several new animal laws through both the state and city political jungle.

Helen is the administrator for the local humane shelter. In the past two years Helen had seen the number of pets relinquished to the shelter skyrocket. The euthanasia to placement ratio is now at an all-time high and is showing no signs of dropping. Additionally, Helen was being pressured to stop all euthanasia operations in light of future litigation problems. The shelter was about to have a meltdown.

Good old days Ten years earlier the shelter had been in great shape financially and had been on the receiving end of grants and endowments. Since the new laws had been enacted, several lawsuits had been filed and the shelter was on the losing end of most of them. The endowments soon began to disappear.

These suits were filed primarily on behalf of guardians but also on behalf of the state itself. Helen felt that she was on the losing end all the way around.