I get a wide array of mail.  I need to share it more often.  Sharing this one with permission from reader Arlene because it cracked me up.  To provide a little context, Arlene normally sends me links and info accompanied by polite commentary or questions.  But she apparently woke up on the feisty side of the bed when she e-mailed me a link to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and copied a blurb from the webpage:

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is available 24/365. A trained staff of veterinary toxicologists can access information to help diagnose problems and give treatment advice.

The fee is $65 to your credit card.

What made me chortle was Arlene’s subject line:

Did you know there were charges for this? After all the money they collect for doing nothing?

She makes a good case.  Millions in the bank, courtesy of compassionate animal lovers who think their donations are being used to help one eyed shelter pets shivering in cages, but the ASPCA won’t tell you if the chocolate chip cookie Buffy just ate is going to kill her unless you can cough up $65 in advance.

13 thoughts on “Mailbag

  1. You never knew there was a charge? I found out years ago. As far as they are concerned your animal can die right there in front of you unless you have a credit card. And if your vet calls, they charge him too. Kind of like the animal emergency clinics that will let your pet bleed out in their lobby because their computers are down and they can’t check your credit.

  2. Everyone who has any pet should know that certain things that humans like are very toxic and can kill a pet and chocolate is especially toxic to dogs and they should spread the word rather than charge money to let someone know what they should inform people about for free. Any animal welfare organization should advocate actively for animal welfare and make knowledge available to help promote the cause besides there are people who do whether they can afford to pay for the information or not nobody should have to lose any animal based on their ability to pay for such information

  3. I’m sorry, I think this is really unfair. The ASPCA BOUGHT the Animal Poison Control Center in 2006; they didn’t create it, nor its revenue model.

    In 2007, because of the insistence of the Poison Control staff, the ASPCA was the ONLY national organization, including No Kill ones, to speak out early and loud about the pet food recalls and melamine contamination of the food supply. I don’t know how well you remember those days — I suspect very well — but the backlash from the medical establishment and the pet food companies against anyone who dared take on this unpopular cause was huge.

    The Animal Poison Control Center provides massive amounts of reliable information on pet poison safety, including whether a chocolate chip cookie will kill Buffy, FOR FREE. It does offer a fee-based phone service for pet owners and their veterinarians to consult with their toxicologists about treating poisoned pets, for a meager $65, which I assure you is a tiny fraction of what a similar consult with a veterinary college or specialist at a private practice would run, and has saved thousands of animals’ lives over the years by providing state of the art veterinary toxicology diagnostic and treatment advice to vets who may otherwise have had no idea what was going on with a pet in their ER.

    Yeah, I wish the A hadn’t bought the Poison Control Center, but I have nothing but respect for the veterinarians and staff at the PCC, and really think that this one deserved a little more background and context.

    1. The ASPCA bought it, they didn’t create it, nor its revenue model. They just continue to charge $65 on your credit card if you call. The fact is the ASPCA can well afford to offer this service on a pay-what-you-can revenue model, as a public service, if they chose to do so. They don’t.

      1. I don’t want to get into a position of defending the ASPCA, but I think paying only $65 to get this level of care — and I’ve used this service for a dog who chewed up a Duraflame log years ago, and know just how MUCH veterinary care and follow up that $65 buys you — is pretty much a public service anyway, and represents a substantial subsidy of poison control information, including research and the maintenance of a unique database. If no one was subsidizing a service like this, there’s no way they could do what they do, including the huge amount of info and public and veterinary education they do FOR FREE.

        I don’t have any inside info on why the APCC let itself be bought by the A, but my guess is without some kind of charitable subsidy, they’d have had to close their doors or start charging market prices for their information.

        I understand that for some people $65 is a lot of money, even unaffordable, but in the context of the market, and what it would cost to get a veterinary toxicologist at a vet college to consult with your vet on a pet poisoning case, it’s a pittance.

        So you’d only be satisfied if it was free? Or only if the APCC was owned by someone other than the A?

      2. As I said, I think it would be nice if the ASPCA offered this on a pay-what-you-can type basis, as a public service. It’s a service that, to my mind, should not only be available to owners who can afford to take their pets to the emergency (or regular) vet clinic after the pet gets sick, but for EVERYONE, including those owners who honestly don’t know if the chocolate chip cookie Buffy just ate will kill her and want to find out before deciding to spend the rent on a trip to the e-clinic.

      3. The time Pepper dressed up in a dog suit was right after he broke the law and refused to return a dog to the owner intact, despite the owner saying he would get the dog neutered at his regular vet. Pepper insisted the MAS vet had to neuter the dog. The dog died on the floor in post-op. There was outrage among local pet lovers and thus, the dog suit. Also, he danced to “Who Let the Dogs Out?” while in the suit, if I remember correctly. The local news ate it up and the dog left to die in post-op was forgotten.

    2. Christie: As much cash ASPCA rakes in from donors across the globe, they owe it to the dog/cat community to offer the single person who’s on duty, with all the info at their finger tips, as a service to save lives, not make it a profit making endeavor, allowing dogs & cats to die if they can’t affore the “meager” sixty five bucks.

      It certainly isn’t meager to me, but the point is: I guess all the donations donated for them to save lives, from me, doesn’t count, does it? They still are in the money making business more than the animal saving business.

  4. We are lucky in that we have an emergency care center in Dayton that will answer the phone and answer your questions FOR FREE 24 hours a day. If you have to bring a dog in, like most veterinarians, they treat and then they charge.

    ASPCA has been behind this “poison control” extortion for at least a decade. I hope that they are seeing a huge reduction in calls since the advent of the internet, where people can simply look it up themselves. With some poisons a few doses of hydrogen peroxide is all it takes– and you can do that at home– but with some, like rat poison, you have to take the dog in for treatment anyway, so the best advice is to have a vet that provides the level of service you need.

    What really irks me about the ASPCA poison control center is that they prey on people who don’t have vets or are not computer savvy, but who are in a panic over Rex’s eating a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

    Which brings me to this: chocolate for most dogs is not that big a deal. For tiny dogs (like all things) you have to be a lot more careful, but for a large dog (Labrador sized) they’d have to eat five pounds of good-quality dark chocolate before they were reaching the danger threshold.

    My 12 and a half year old champion Foxhound’s favorite food is Famous Amos cookies– I used to use them for bait in the dog show ring.

    Xylitol (found in most sugarless chewing gums) on the other hand, is really bad news.

  5. There are plenty of random items that dogs chew up that are *slightly* more complicated than chocolate cookies. I was icing a twisted ankle with a commercially bought ice bag. My dog decided it was a frosty treat and grabbed it off the sofa. I Googled ‘Ice pack+dog” and was immediately greeted with several tales of dogs being poisoned and dying. The ASPCA poison line was my last shot before taking her to the local emergency vet (walk in fee of $200 plus round trip cab fare). I was NOT happy when I was told it was $65, but I figured at best I would pay $65 to find out that my dog was going to be fine (at worst I’d get the antidote and be able to call it in to the vet en route). However, when I gave them the brand of ice bag I was told that all 3M products had no charge for any calls related to poison control. (I’m not sure why that is but it certainly made me feel warm and fuzzy towards 3M!) Happy ending was that my ice bag was not poisonous, my dog was fine and I didn’t have to pay $65 to find that out. But If I HADN’T HAD $65…what a horrible night of wait and see that would have been.
    Just trying to point out that this poison line is also useful to people who have vets, and know how to use Google effectively. And yes, one would think the ASPCA would be able to provide that at a reduced rate.

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