Access to no and low cost spay-neuter services for pet owners who need them is a key component of the No Kill Equation. The No Kill Equation is the only set of programs proven to eliminate the needless killing of shelter pets. Alabama, a state where roughly 1 out of 5 people live below poverty level, had four non-profit clinics which offered low cost spay-neuter services. That is, until recently.
For the past few years, the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (ASBVME) has been trying to get the low cost spay-neuter clinics shut down. The board has claimed that sub-standard care is being provided and that the clinics are trying to expand into full service vet hospitals. The care is “sub-standard” because the primary function of the clinics is to perform low cost, high volume spays and neuters. So yeah, this isn’t the place to get a complete diagnostic work up on your geriatric pet who doesn’t seem to be exhibiting her usual pep lately. If it was, then the clinic would be guilty of attempting to expand its services. But it’s not, so no.
The bottom line: the ASBVME members want ALL THE MONEY that anyone in the state of AL is willing to spend on vet care. As if one client at a spay-neuter clinic equates with one client who would utilize a full service practice if the low cost clinic wasn’t available. Because hey, if all the WalMarts closed tomorrow, everyone would totally head on over to Saks Fifth Avenue to get their shopping done.
The ASBVME is currently targeting veterinarian William Weber, owner of the low cost spay-neuter clinic in Irondale. In hearings held by the ASBVME, Dr. Weber spoke for himself:
“You’re not gonna shut me up so you may as well not try. You can object until Kingdom Come. You can object ‘til your glasses fall off. You will not shut me up… The great majority of these people are people that would never, ever go into a veterinary clinic and pay $500 or similar to spay a cat that they’re lucky they can feed and catch in a trap and take it somewhere. They’re not gonna do that. Veterinarians are not losing money from spay and neuter clinics! And if veterinarians would cooperate, they would make money from ‘em. You be nice to some of these people, and they’ll come back to you. And why people cannot see that is beyond me. How can a veterinarian go to school and learn surgery and come out of it with no compassion?! There are veterinarians in this state that have a hole in their brain where compassion ought to be and they’re trying to fill it up with money.“
And astonishingly, ASBVME vice president Sam Eidt offered that low cost spay-neuter clinics aren’t needed because pet overpopulation is a myth and the book Redemption says so. Nathan Winograd, the author of Redemption, wrote to the ASBVME in response. His letter, which can be read in full here, sets the record straight:
Any claim that [low cost spay-neuter] clinics are either unnecessary or should be restricted based on my work is categorically false. In fact, not only am I and my organization committed to the promotion of such services, when I ran shelters, we performed many such surgeries, as they were key to our lifesaving success. In one of those shelters, we did roughly 10,000 low-cost surgeries a year, 84% of which were free. None of the community’s veterinarians objected to this service. Indeed, as animal lovers who understood that we were serving people who could not afford their services, they welcomed it.
While it is true that nationwide statistics show that there are enough potential homes for the animals in shelters, this does not undermine the cost, public health, and lifesaving impact of such services. Indeed, regardless of the number of potential homes, the fact remains that the animals are not getting into those homes. Shelter killing currently claims the lives of three million healthy and treatable animals every year and shelter killing remains the leading cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the U.S. Low-cost, high-volume spaying and neutering helps to decrease the number of animals entering shelters who would face an unnecessary and untimely death. Such programs are therefore essential to saving lives and should be encouraged and supported.
The low cost spay-neuter clinic in Huntsville abruptly closed its doors a couple weeks ago, due to fear of being next on the ASBVME’s hit list. Although I haven’t seen any support for AL’s low cost spay-neuter clinics from HSUS or ASPCA during this legal battle, Francis Battista of Best Friends recently blogged about the issue:
The ASBVMA, under the leadership of Robert E. Pittman, DVM, is charging Weber with fraud and lack of supervision, and it maintains that the clinic, which performs low-cost, high-volume spays and neuters, provides substandard care. It should be noted that Dr. Pittman owns and operates his hometown kill shelter on a contract with the city. The shelter is attached to his Athens, Alabama, veterinary clinic. It might be an oversimplification to frame it this way, but this looks for all the world like a case where a vet who has a vested interest in not reducing the number of homeless pets using his institutional authority is going after a vet who is working to reduce the number of homeless pets. Hmm.
Put me down for a hmm too.
For those who scrolled to the end of this post because words, here are your takeaways:
- Access to no and low cost spay-neuters is a key program utilized by hundreds of communities which have ended the killing of healthy/treatable shelter pets.
- Closing the low cost spay-neuter clinics in AL will result in an increase in the number of unintended litters of puppies and kittens, not an increase in gold bullion for private practice vets.
- There are enough homes for every shelter pet in the United States. That does not mean we should work to create more pets likely to end up in shelters. In fact, that’s the wrong direction entirely. Especially given the fact that most shelter directors are failing to get their pets into homes and are killing them instead. So providing these directors with more is a terrible idea. They’re failing the ones they already have.
- Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham has been trying to get a bill passed to protect the state’s spay-neuter clinics but hasn’t been successful to date. Seems like a missed opportunity for HSUS and their legislative inclinations. Their support, were they to offer it, might tip the balance in favor of the bill.
(Thanks to readers Tip and Aubrie for the links and transcript of Dr. Weber’s remarks.)