Every town has one, sometimes two, low-cost spay/neuter clinics. These clinics do amazing work with the short amount of time they are open to the public. Most stock themselves with volunteers who work long hours and do not get paid for their time. The veterinarians they acquire may also be volunteers or make very little for their work. These people do not do it for the money, but to help people and animals in need.
Spay/neuter clinics often are financed by donations from the community and different organizations. Hospitals donate supplies, surgical equipment, etc. And again people volunteer their time and sometimes money to help with the process. All in all, spay/neuter clinics are great for people who have animals but they cannot afford the price of a regular veterinarian. Luckily many people who adopt from shelters or rescues obtain animals that have been already spayed/neutered, either through the local shelter or spay/neuter clinics.
This helps relieve the burden of financial responsibility from people who want a companion animal but may not have the time or finances to get them fixed. But for those who find, acquire from a friend, rescue young, or just plain forgot to get their animals fixed and are financially strapped- spay/neuter clinics are a great option for them. But here in lies the dilemma.
I work at a small animal clinic and often see a lot of great people adopting from local shelters and rescues. But there are a lot of people who acquire their pets from local breeders and pet stores. These animals typically do not come to them spayed/neutered because they are too young. Many of these animals are purebred and cost anywhere between 500-3000 dollars depending on the breeder or pet store. These people spend a lot of money on these animals yet I often hear them stating they will not be using my services for spay/neuter. These people state that they will be using the local spay/neuter clinic because they are cheaper. Although there aren’t any rules against this, it does create an issue.
Spay/neuter clinics have reduced prices because they run on donated money and time. For someone who can easily afford a 3000-dollar pet using a spay/neuter clinic can be considered stealing from charity. Some of those people may argue that they feel their own veterinarian is ripping them off with higher costs so it’s better to just use a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. Others will argue that someone who can afford a purebred animal should not take away a spot meant to be for a low-income family.
So what do we do? In the human medical field, you have to prove financial hardship to have medical bills reduced or nullified. Do spay/neuter clinics need to start asking for financial proof before allowing someone to bring their pet in? Do we rely on looks alone, knowing that is just stereotyping people? Do we hope that people are being honest when they bring in their animals for these procedures?
In my opinion, it’s a matter of educating the public. No, we don’t need people to prove they are poor. But we as veterinarians need to start educating owners about spay/neuter clinics and what they should be used for. When you have clients discussing taking their 3000 dollar French bulldog to the local clinic- don’t scold them but educate them on why those clinics are cheaper and that they are supposed to help benefit people who cannot afford a regular veterinarian. Those clinics are not to be taken advantage of and should be used for people with financial hardships.
It’s a complicated issue… what is your opinion?