If you live in Seminole County, Florida and you want the least expensive pet care to be had, you can mosey on over to the shelter and get tax-subsidized, full service veterinary care––which, of course, means that members of the Florida Veterinary Medical Association (FVMA) are up in arms (yet again).

Not only do many FVMA members rail against tax dollars applied indiscriminately to the pet-owning public at large, they’re angry these tax-funded services compete with private veterinarians at low-ball prices we’ll never be able to match.

It’s all well and good to offer a full range of veterinary services to the needy, we say, but [for the love of God] at least screen the clientele so the Prada-wielding, Merc-driving cheapskates among us can’t glom onto the services we fund with our tax dollars.

Spays and neuters? Those services get a pass, no matter how much money you have. Anyone should be able to obtain these pet overpopulation-oriented services at a subsidized price––it’s just good public policy. But other services? Vaccines get a pass, too, but why should taxpayers pay for X-rays, bloodwork and other procedures if 1) they can pay for them and 2) it cannibalizes private veterinary medicine?

This newest round of hand-wringing was brought to you courtesy of a news piece from Central Florida in which a gleaming new dentistry machine was showcased along with other sparkly trappings in the Seminole County shelter’s new digs.

Sterilization and rabies vax we get, but why do we have to pay for someone else’s dentistry?

Though I’m very big on full-service veterinary medicine in a public setting, (including the crucial prophylactic dentistry procedure) I, too, bristle at such niceties when they’re offered to the general public on MY dime.

After all, I know how many of my own small cache of deadbeat clients CAN pay and often refuse to. We all know that some people are happy to avail themselves of taxpayer dollars even when they know they don’t deserve them. Even as they knowingly usurp the services of the truly poor, they’ll proudly congratulate themselves for a penny well saved.

This problem is especially annoying given that there are public systems in place for identifying the proven needy among us. When I volunteer at the homeless shelter, offering basic care to pets of the dispossessed, it’s pretty obvious who needs the care and who does not (they ALL need it in this setting). But in the rest of US society it’s all about Medicaid.

In fact, if you show me your Medicaid card I’ll even slash my own service prices in half––though I probably shouldn’t advertise this. After all, places like Seminole County’s new facility are built for this, even though those in charge don’t seem to get that.

Many will complain that veterinarians protest too much. And I’ll agree that FVMA vets protest a lot. But it’s my take that much needed public veterinary care will not succeed as long as it’s available to all income levels. Our public funds are way too limited for that.


For more discussion on tax support for pets, check out my USA Today column.

Then in today's DailyVet post, a reprise of my support for the vasectomy procedure.