We talked yesterday about the externship I rotated through at the Washington Animal Rescue League as a fourth year veterinary student. Reliving that experience reminded me of the good that is being done by not-for-profit veterinary clinics like these. We have a similar organization here in Colorado called PetAid Animal Hospital. PetAid provides state of the art veterinary services to the pets of vulnerable populations in a compassionate and respectful manner.

If you want get a better feel for how these programs help owners and pets, check out the video available on the PetAid website and then rejoin us here.

As hard as it may be to believe after watching that video, some veterinarians are up in arms about the spread of this type of clinic. They argue that nonprofits put downward pressure on prices due to the tax breaks, donations, etc., they receive and generally devalue veterinary services. In my opinion, as long as potential clients undergo rigorous means testing, not-for-profit clinics are a welcome addition to the profession.

Many private practice veterinarians have a hard time balancing the bottom line and feel pressured to discount or give away their services when clients are in a financial bind. Though I think some charity cases should be accepted at traditional clinics (especially for existing clients), veterinarians should welcome the opportunity to refer owners with whom they don’t have a relationship to clinics that can take care of these pets and people well, but at a reduced fee.

Means testing is certainly in full use at PetAid Animal Hospital (except for their spay-neuter program). The list of paperwork needed to qualify for discounted services is daunting and includes:

  • Photo identification to match with income paperwork.
  • Social security cards for all dependents being claimed in the qualification process.
  • If single or married but not living on your own, you must state that you are solely responsible for the care/welfare of the pet. If married, documentation must be provided for all family members.
  • Documentation used to qualify a client must include at least one of the following:
    • Proof of unemployment benefits being received currently or within the past three months.
    • Proof of public assistance including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or food stamps
    • Latest award letter for Social Security or disability payments
    • Court documents showing amount of child support or spousal maintenance (alimony) awarded
    • Correspondence which documents student loan amounts
    • Two most recent paycheck stubs
    • Most recent tax returns

I think the hassle of pulling all that together is more than enough to turn away clients who could pay standard rates for services but are simply looking for a way to shirk their responsibilities.

The Humane Society of the United States offers a comprehensive list of national organizations that provide financial assistance to in-need pet owners on their website. Some are listed nationwide, others are listed alphabetically by state. It’s worth taking a look if you are financially unable to get your pet the care it needs.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: AnneMS / via Shutterstock