Q: I have a sad story for you about my neighbor who couldn’t afford to get her dog spayed and had to put her to sleep after she came down with an infection of her uterus. I’m really upset that her veterinarian wouldn’t do the humane thing and do this life-saving surgery for her. How do veterinarians live with themselves knowing they hold the power over life-and death like this? How can they choose death for these pets? It’s so cruel!
A: Was your neighbor given the option of a publicly funded service? You raise a perfect example in which a municipal animal services department could have been employed to perform a life-saving service at virtually no cost to your neighbor. The Miami-Dade Animal Services Department, for example, is capable and would have been willing perform the procedure your neighbor’s dog needed.
Of course, we all wish we could afford the services of a private veterinary hospital where individualized care typically means better outcomes for severely ill patients, but here’s the thing it comes down to: Your private veterinary hospital has to pay privately for these services out of their own pockets. What’s more, our services cost more because we can’t get supplies at low cost like our municipal shelter can.
The upshot is that practice owners like me have to shoulder the entire cost of this procedure. And what happens if complications arise? A practice owner who already donates a lot of her time and resources to stray pets, has to pay for everything, which can amount to many hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in some complicated cases.
It may sound cold to raise this issue given the tragic outcome, but I have to ask: Why did your neighbor elect not to spay her dog at the shelter before this emergency? She could have completely prevented this problem if only she’d availed herself of her community’s free public services.
To plant this problem entirely at the feet of her veterinarian isn’t fair. Sure, her veterinarian should have offered some options (and might well did in this case). Here are a few:
▪ Referral to her shelter, where it could have been performed at very low cost.
▪ CareCredit, a no- or low-interest credit card dedicated to helping people pay for veterinary services.
▪ A payment plan (some veterinarians will offer these).
▪ A loan from friends and family.
Veterinarians are not the only members of the community who care. Neighbors can step up, too.