Re: “Help needed for some pet owners,” June 11, 2012
As a veterinarian practicing in Kamloops, I would like to reply to the letter asking assistance for pet owners who are financially unable to take care of their pet’s medical needs.
I deal with pet owners on a daily basis. As a pet owner, I understand that pets are not just animals but important members of our families. I also hope that each pet owner is responsible and wants what is best for their pet. It is my responsibility as an owner to take care of my pet's needs and recognize this may involve costs above and beyond food and shelter.
One of the most difficult parts of being a veterinarian is that economics often dictate the course of an animal's treatment plan. If I never had to discuss these costs, my job would be a whole lot easier.
Veterinarians are people who genuinely love animals and have invested in excess of six years of post secondary education to earn the ability to practice veterinary medicine.
Most of us in general practice work for small privately owned clinics that have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars just to meet minimum practice standards. If we want to offer any specialized equipment or services we must purchase the equipment ourselves or pay for specialized training.
The reality is having access to facilities and knowledge comes at a cost for the pet owner. This will allow clinics to continue providing up-to-date care for animals and provide a living for the staff; compassion and care just don’t pay the bills.
In essence, there is no public medical system for pets like we have for ourselves. We are lucky enough in Canada to not have a true idea of what medical care costs. Which begs the question, veterinarians are expensive compared to what?
Owning a pet has a host of positive effects on general well being for people – young, old, disabled, ill or otherwise. As it stands, pet ownership is a privilege, not a right. To allow less fortunate to access veterinary care it will take more than veterinarians offering their knowledge and time at a reduced rate.
We struggle with providing basic services like vaccines, spaying and neutering to low-income earners. In our city we rely on the donation-funded BCSPCA to facilitate the existence of the spay and neuter clinic.
It would be a great day when there were funds available to assist with veterinary care for sick pets with financially challenged owners. A great example of such an organization/fund is the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals (www.pdsa.org.uk). As a veterinarian I would be delighted to support such an organization. I encourage you or other readers to get the wheels in motion.
Until then, there are ways of deferring veterinary costs. Set a few dollars aside monthly for the unknown (open an account for the what-ifs) or consider taking out a pet insurance policy before your animal is ill. This will help to cover unexpected bills in the future and safeguard your pet’s health for a few dollars a month.
Until then we will help where we can.
HEATHER FRASER, DVM