Sunday, November 16, 2008

Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinics

Here we go again….. In the last issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, there was a letter to the editor complaining about low cost spay and neuter clinics. I’m tired of defending myself and people who want to try and make a difference so I let it go. Someone did respond, though, and the original author got to respond as well. The response was even more offensive than the original letter so here we go again. Let’s get rid of some myths, shall we?

1) Spay/neuter are bad medicine. There are no bad clinics, there are only bad people. We can use a ton of examples here. A knife can be used to kill someone or feed your family. A hammer can be used to build a house or end a fight. “Clinics” don’t decide to do surgery without pain medication, bad doctors do. Banning spay/neuter clinics is not the answer. Taking the license away from bad doctors is.

2) Spay/neuter clinics perform subpar surgery. Really? I have a doctor here in my town that does surgery all day out of 1 surgery pack. This is fine unless he opens a low cost clinic? That’s crap. If your spay/neuter clinic is run by a bad doctor than you should file a complaint with your state board.

3) Unless a surgery is performed under university hospital conditions, it’s unacceptable and dangerous. More crap. As long as you get a sterile surgical pack, pain management and a safe anesthetic protocol, you are getting an acceptable surgery. Think it’s wrong that the low cost clinic doesn’t put a catheter in every surgical patient? Go pay full price. The fact of the matter is, some people want a Timex, some want a Rolex. You can shop at Wal-Mart or Tiffany’s. But don’t tell people who are poor that they should go without a watch.

So why does your veterinarian tell you that the low cost spay/neuter clinic is committing animal abuse?

1) They are greedy. News flash: some veterinarians are bad people. They will abuse your trust to make sure that you only spend your money at their hospital.

2) They are elitist. Some people think you should only own a pet if you can pay top dollar for “the best” care. This is wrong on two levels: first, maybe people who can’t afford pets and kids shouldn’t have they, but they do. The pet should not suffer just because people won’t take care of them. Second, ask them what happens when someone gets injured at their practice. EVERY veterinarian I know has sutured up a person. Why didn’t they pay for their staff to get “the best” care?

3) They are bad doctors and business people. You need to remember that being a veterinarian means running your own business. If all you do is give “shots” and spay/neuter, then you are in a dying business. These guys are afraid to change. They can’t all of a sudden become doctors again, so they fight every threat to the status quo. Once it becomes proven that you don’t need to vaccinate your pet every year, these guys will go out of business.

As hard as I‘ve been on low cost clinic detractors, let’s end on some of their valid points and hope that we can correct these problems to help make sure that less animals get put to sleep each year.

1) Low cost clinics enable people to have more animals that they should have. Having worked in this field for more than 10 years I know this is true. I see people come to these clinics and the kids have no shoes, the parents need medical treatment themselves and you told them not to get any more pets last year. But without a low cost option would these people just not get any pets?

2) People abuse the free spay/neuter clinics. Yes people lie, they make up fake names and they fake tax records. I’ve even seen some people show up with grandma and tell us she owned the 80lb pit bull. I always agree this is a problem. But is the fact that some people will abuse the system, a reason to deny everyone help? There would be NO social programs if we operated under that assumption.

3) Lost cost clinics are cutting some corner. Yes, they are. Either your pet is going home shortly after surgery, your pet is not getting a catheter and fluids during surgery, or they are going to do 50 that day and no one will watch your pet wake up from anesthesia. It is NOT the same procedure you are getting at the full service hospital. Your veterinarian is not trying to screw you. Veterinary medicine is just like every other business; you get what you pay for. You have to decide if you want the Timex or the Rolex.

So there it is, my rant on this topic…again. Here’s my recommendation for you if you believe that low cost clinics are eating your lunch. Spend more time telling people the difference between your clinic and the free clinic. Most of the people who go to the low cost clinic are there because they want to be there, not because they have to be there. They don’t value a full cost clinic’s services. Let them go and take better care of the people who want what you have to offer.

If you’re considering a low cost clinic, ask questions. Ask the staff what you are getting. If you don’t like that answer call another clinic and ask why there is a price difference.

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