It happened again. A family could not afford the care of their pet and the veterinarian offered relinquishment instead of having to euthanize the animal. It should be a feel good story. It should make you say, “Wow that veterinarian is so nice to do that for that animal instead of euthanizing.” But instead people get angry. People start harassing the veterinarian. People start spreading misinformation. And then the family gets their pet back at no charge because the public has made a spectacle of it all and forced the veterinarian to work for free.
Misinformation continues to fuel these situations. I’ve written about this before. People get wrapped up in the title and read very little details regarding the situation and then just click that share button. And then it’s shared… and shared… and shared. Suddenly we are dealing with a misinformation mess. Let’s go over what really happens in these situations to try to get some facts straight before this trend continues.
In most of these stories a pet is brought in for a major issue such as parvovirus or a surgical issue or even just a really sick dog or cat. Typically the owners cannot afford treatment, even the bare bones estimates. The veterinarian sees this sweet animal suffering and usually has to bring up euthanasia as a treatment option but doesn’t like discussing that when the animal could be saved. So we discuss relinquishment.
Relinquishment means that we will take on the cost of the treatment but the animal now belongs to the clinic. Here is where the story always takes a turn. The owners will always ask if they can have the animal back once it is better or sometimes will harass the clinic for updates on who is the new owner so they can guilt those people into giving the animal back. Or sometimes you see social media get involved and random people will scream at the clinic saying “If you are doing the work for free why not just give the animal back to the owner.” So let’s discuss those misconceptions.
No, the owners cannot have the animal back once the clinic has saved it unless they come up with the money to pay for treatment. Unfortunately animal clinics are businesses and we need payment to keep afloat. If we gave back every animal that was relinquished without payment we would no longer be in service. This also creates a vicious cycle because now those owners think any time their pet is in trouble they can get work done “for free.”
That brings up the second part. We are not doing the work for free. We still have to pay for those medications, anesthesia, and time that had been put into saving the animal. Several animals that I have saved due to relinquishment or abandonment were charged to my account and I happily paid them since I became the new owner of said animal. None of the work is for free. Now maybe the clinic will discount some of the services or write them off but that doesn’t mean that any random pet owner should be able to cheat the system and not have to pay.
Relinquishment doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes animals get into situations that clients cannot afford. If a veterinarian offers relinquishment that means that they care enough to try to give the animal a chance. But if the public continues to act like veterinarians are just money hungry people wanting to take everyone’s dogs for profit then a lot less veterinarians will be willing to allow relinquishment which means a lot more unnecessary euthanasia.
You don’t have to be rich to own an animal but you do need to take responsibility for that animal. Relinquishing an animal is the responsible route to take if you cannot afford treatment. You are allowing that pet to live another day. We need to stop punishing both the owners and the veterinarians in these situations. We all want to help the suffering animal and that should be the endgame.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Nicole Palumbo is a 2012 graduate from University of Illinois. She is originally from the south side of Chicago but chose to move to Northwest Pennsylvania for her first job out of veterinary school, where she currently is still employed. She works with small animals, exotics, and also volunteers her time at the local wildlife rescue, typically performing surgeries and exams on the many raptors that are admitted to the facility. With time she hopes to focus more time on wildlife medicine and also obtain specialization in feline medicine.