There are certain calls to news editors that prove irresistible.
I imagine in this day and age of ratings and clicks mattering more than actual investigative reporting, nothing makes editors salivate more than the tale of a devastated family and the greedy, lazy, and/or incompetent veterinarian responsible for the death of a pet.
It neatly checks all the boxes modern day news websites are looking for: sad family. Adorable pet. Terrible situation. Having fulfilled these requirements, the media happily narrates the story with appropriate gravitas and murmurings of “tragic, Jane, back to you for the weather” and then they go on with their lives while the veterinarian in question now is left with the angry mob to deal with. Who cares? It got a ton of clicks!
Savaging a veterinarian who cannot legally or ethically defend themselves in public has become so common and so rote now that it doesn’t even surprise me any more. The latest happened in Greenville South Carolina, but the same old formula has been circulating for years. I should know; it happened to me too.
I understand- truly, I do– the devastation of a client who has lost a beloved pet. I understand that grief does funny things and it often becomes easier to turn guilt into anger, to blame someone else for all the things you could have done better. Better this than to say to yourself, “I played a role in this pet’s death too.”
But I do blame the media for swallowing these stories as presented, regurgitating them to the public as if they were an absolute truth without bothering to even try to get another side to the story. They are part of the reason veterinarians burn out and leave the field, develop addictions, or worse. Because here’s the truth:
As the Vet in Question, You Can’t Win
When someone has lost their pet under sad circumstances and goes to the media, as the professional involved, you are in a terrible situation. We are not supposed to discuss our patients in a public setting. Pointing out that a grieving owner has some responsibility for what transpired is, even when it’s true, awfully callous. There’s just no winning.
As a member of the public, it’s easy to feel outrage when you are presented with a one-sided story, but I’m begging you as someone who has been there, before you jump on the social media bandwagon and pillory yet another professional trying to do their job, to consider that there is probably another side to the story.
I Wish He Had a Chance
In this recent case in South Carolina, a Pomeranian with no ID and no microchip presented with breathing difficulties to an emergency hospital; he was considered a stray, brought in by a Good Samaritan. The pet was euthanized. This is what we know. The hospital declined to comment, as is standard practice.
All any of us have to go on is the owner’s story. My comments, as an emergency veterinarian who’s been in similar situations, follow.
“Bridges says Meeka had a history of tracheal problems that were easily managed with ibuprofen and Benadryl, and believes the vet misdiagnosed her dog’s condition.
Ibuprofen is not prescribed in veterinary medicine*. If the pet was being treated with that, his condition- whatever it was, as ‘slipped trachea’ is not a condition- was never accurately diagnosed or managed. In fact, ibuprofen toxicity is itself a common reason for ER visits.
In an emergency situation where a good Samaritan brings in a pet with breathing difficulty (a true emergency), you are between a rock and a hard place as simple stabilization, never mind diagnostics, runs into the hundreds of dollars or more right out the gate. When you don’t have authorization from the owner and the pet is at risk of dying, you have to make very tough calls.
The family says Meeka was euthanized just a few hours later.
“You can’t be in that profession and not even have a second thought that this that could be a four year old’s puppy that you’re killing,” said Bridges.
This is true. I imagine they did wonder about the pet’s family, and they still made that call. That lets you know how sick the pet was. I can’t speak for the veterinarian in this case, but I’ve been there and when it was me, this is what I have thought:
This is devastating. This poor dog. I wish I knew who he belonged to so I could talk to them. I hope there isn’t a little kid at home wondering if he is OK. I wish he had a chance. I wish he were not panicking while trying to breathe. I wish I had another choice.
The records also show that the Samaritan couldn’t pay for Meeka to have an emergency tracheotomy, and without the funds, he was euthanized.”
He must have been extremely sick. We don’t recommend tracheotomies or euthanize on presentation for a mild soft cough. According to the records shared by the owner, the pet was blue and couldn’t breathe without oxygen- conditions that, in emergency medicine, are as dire as it gets.
If there’s any way to keep the pet safe and comfortable long enough to find the family, of course we will. We want our patients to live too.
My heart is with the Bridges family, who is understandably devastated about Meeka’s death. I don’t blame them for looking for answers. Grieving people do that. I blame the reporter Brookley Cromer, may her stilettos always encounter dog poop, and the team at WISTV, for their laziness in amplifying a grieving family’s questions into implications of guilt instead of presenting the real, nuanced situation. Remember, a collar with tags would have resulted in a different ending.
I wish the Bridges family peace. I wish the staff at Animal Emergency Clinic a bottle of wine. It’s just sad all around.
*The news article has been updated to remove the name of the medication, but that is what was stated by the owner.
Well said, Dr. V.! Why would any reasonable person assume a veterinarian, whose life is dedicated to the health and well being of animals, would euthanize a dog without considering every other option first? The world is always looking for a villain. And the media counts on that.
Dr. V says
It’s exhausting when, every time one of these stories come up, trying to decide “Do I bother trying to share another side, knowing the majority of comments will be people speaking negatively of my profession?” But I do it anyway, because I love the veterinary profession and I believe in it. It’s all you can do, sometimes.
I can’t imagine what you guys go through. Being a reader of your blog, I always give my vet an extra word of thanks 🙂
Dr. V says
And those words mean so very much Jane! ((()))
Maureen White says
I’m sorry for the family but take your share of responsibility in this. Where were you? How is it a good samaritan brought your dog in? Where were you? Why wasn’t your dog chipped? Why didn’t it have a collar or tags? You can vilify the vet but how is it your dog ended up in this situation? Did the reporter ask those questions?
Dr. V says
Jodie Spencer says
We are put in this situation far too often. Pets brought in by Good Samaritans, by Animal Control, or simply by a boarding kennel with no owner available to talk to by phone. We make judgement calls with split-second decisions. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
Dr. V says
And this is why we burn out in such tremendous numbers 🙁
Thank you for reminding me that we should be checking with our boarding kennels to make sure they know they’re authorized for life-saving vet treatments regardless of cost. We luckily don’t have to board our babies often, but I would hate to do so, forget that step, and come home to find one of them gone when they could have been saved!
Cassandra Sumwun says
Just from reading this post, it seems that it came down to money, as is usually the case. Since the samaritan could not pay for the dog to be treated, the vet killed him. I’ve taken many a sick pet to a vet and while I get that they have bills to pay also, giving someone the ultimatum of “pay up or Fluffy/Fido dies” is a horrible thing to do to both the family and the pet. If I had a dollar for every time a vet has done that, to me, I wouldn’t need a job. Thank gawd this isn’t allowed (mostly) for HUMAN children! What so many vets seem to either not care about, or not understand, is that to many of us, our animals are as important to us as our human children are. Sometimes they’ve “replaced” (for lack of a better term) our children due to certain circumstances that have interfered with the relationship. One might as well be holding a gun to them. I’m not even trying to say that vet care should be free – far from it. I’m saying that when an animal with a treatable condition is presented, but the treatment is going to run into hundreds or thousands of dollars, then it would seem much more ethical, and certainly more CARING to work out payment arrangements with the person than to demand payment up front or callously “offer euthanasia”. Killing a treatable pet over money is not only NOT “euthanasia”, it’s deplorable! Pets never seem to get sick/injured when it’s payday. It’s almost always the off week for a person on a two week pay period. And animals, as we all know, cannot wait for treatment the way we could on a lot of things. While some may argue that “if someone doesn’t have a few thousand bucks hanging out of their butt in case of a problem they shouldn’t have a pet”, that would only lead to MORE animals being killed in the county animal control facilties every year. The same applies to human kids, too. If one can’t afford them, one shouldn’t have them, right? Yet there are millions of kids and pets alike that are well feed, loved dearly and taken care of at all cost. But when those kids or animals get sick, what is the person supposed to do? There is a large percentage of folks living paycheck to paycheck (who don’t live in big houses or drive expensive cars btw) and will gladly pay for the vet care – when they receive their paycheck, or in payment plans, but just can’t crap a few hundred bucks (or more) right at that particular moment. Again, thank gawd we don’t apply the same practice to humans that vets do to animals. And animals lives are EVERY BIT AS IMPORTANT AS HUMANS. They’re living, breathing, SENTIENT BEINGS who are MORE dependent on us than (most) human kids in that they don’t grow up and move out and take care of themselves. They need us their entire lives! If a vet’s first thought is to kill a pet because the parent doesn’t have $500 right at that very moment, then maybe they shouldn’t be a vet. Afterall, vets are supposed to HELP animals, not kill them when they have treatable conditions. Oh, and I’m aware of “Care Credit”, but that is based on credit scores and many people don’t qualify for it. Yes, there is also pet “insurance”, if you can spare the cost of that, which some people can’t after paying bills and making sure everyone in the house eats. No, it isn’t terribly expensive, but some plans aren’t worth a crap and the ones that are can be pricey. All I’m saying is that compassion, especially from vets is in short supply these days and that’s really pathetic.
Perhaps you have forgotten that veterinary staff members also have family/children that need care? Vet clinics are privately owned, and unlike human ERs do not receive any sort of funding from outside sources. Caring for critically ill patients is expensive because of the supplies and manpower needed. And if the client doesn’t pay, the clinic still has to pay for those supplies and manpower. I’m a vet nurse that works an exhausting, physical and mentally challenging job, and I hardly make over minimum wage. I have two college degrees, and I could qualify for food stamps. Don’t assume we’re some money grubbing profession. I do this for the love of the job: not money. Don’t ever accuse vet staff of not caring enough. You have no idea what we go through.
Cassandra Sumwun says
It seems as though the people who’ve responded here think I’m some idiot with no understanding of how businesses work. I’ve been in accounting for over 20 years. I get that every business has costs they must pay. I’m sorry you make so little money. Especially considering the cost of vet care. I am not saying ALL vets don’t care, but too many do not. Supplies are typically bought in bulk, and few of them are “specialty” items that must be ordered for a specific animal. As I’ve stated to a couple of other responders, many businesses do not get paid the moment their work is complete, and they’re not “life saving” businesses. They manage to make it work, and without subsidies from any government. Many businesses have accounts receivable in the TENS AND HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS every month. They still pay their employees and their bills. And they’re not demanding that anyone die in lieu of payment (except maybe the mob). And the vet still charges to kill the pet on top of it in many cases. I just cannot wrap my head around the fact that if someone asks for their pets life to be saved and to pay the fee within a week, or stretch it out over a few payments when it’s a really large cost, the answer is a calloused NO, sorry, but we can kill him now for you… no matter the age or overall condition of the animal. How anyone who claims to care about these animals but would rather see them dead than to wait for money will never make sense to me. Ever.
Your mistake is thinking that the money will be there the next week. It is often not going to be.
As you said, many business who do payment plans are not dealing with life saving businesses. Meaning that they are very rarely in an emergency setting. They have time to work out contract, check out credit and things like that. And they more than likely often decline clients if they don’t feel the client is trustworthy, I highly doubt any company out there accept payment plans for 100% of people all the time.
It’s not that we would rather see them dead than wait for the money. It’s just the sad reality of life. We hate it when owners can’t afford care. But too many people never pay us back.
Jordan Stephenson says
Not one vet prefers to see them dead. Not one. You say you know business, but you obviously know nothing about veterinary medicine. Why should we work for free if we can’t get free mortgages/rent or free groceries? Why are we the ONLY profession people expect to work for free? You know why burnout happens so frequently in our profession, as well as being the #1 profession in suicides…it’s because of people like you. You demand too much. We can’t afford to work for free. There wouldn’t be a hospital open to help animals if we worked for free. Why can’t you understand that? Do you say to your mechanic “if you really loved cars you’d work on mine for free?” How about your grocer “If you really loved produce, I could get my food for free. You heartless money making grocer.” I do not apologize for wanting to be paid for what I do. My student loans, alone, are more than your house payments. If you can’t afford it, don’t get a pet. But quit your bitching.
Keith Thomas says
I honestly think you should attempt to spend time in the profession. And I am not saying this to ‘take a shot’s or anything aggressive. I think the harsh reality is not something anyone on the outside can understand. I am lucky enough to be at a clinic that typically can offer a form of payment plan, but not always. As an ER clinic, I can tell you we have numerous clients per day that have never been to our clinic and will never come back after the emergency is over, which is fine – they have a primary caregiver. But many of those clients in that situation never pay. I have stared in the eyes of broken people swearing they will pay 50$ weekly to get their animal through parvo only to to, literally, never hear from them again.
I wish we could delay. We can’t. And if you want to know why, try it.
And of course we charge for euthanasia. We are using controlled medications which require additional licensure and medical equipment, and most importantly, our time. Time to console owners. Time to explain how amazingly peaceful we can make their pets end-of-life care be. Time to share our own stories of when we’ve euthanized our own pets.
We would never rather see them dead. These decisions suck. Pets with treatable conditions but no means for the care. It would be wonderful to find a solution, but just because there isn’t one doesn’t mean vets are villains who just want to kill animals. Comments like that are what drive our profession to unfathomable levels of burnout and suicide.
So again, if you want to understand beyond reading a sensationalized story, TRY IT.
Sarah Powers says
We can wait for money or see them dead. Sounds like a rock and a hard place. Good thing you don’t work in this profession! Cassandra, you are part of the problem, not the solution. If anyone is pathetic, it’s entitled, snotty clients like you. In terms of finances, a vet is kinda like a mechanic. Say your car breaks down and it’s going to cost $1200 to fix it. The mechanics I know would either not do the work without a deposit first, or refuse to return the car if I couldn’t pay afterwards. What do you do if you don’t have $1200? Go without a car until you do. Get a ride. And not ONE person will string the mechanic up for “not having compassion”. Not even if that car is your baby. Not even if that is the only way you can go visit your dying grandmother. No one will accuse that mechanic of being a monster for refusing to work without payment.
But when it’s a pet, it’s a living thing and we don’t want it to suffer. So there’s a new option: euthanasia. It’s not the option we want, but we must do what’s right by the pet. If the owners can’t afford treatment, then sometimes what’s best for the pet is to let it go. At no point does it ever become a hostage situation. But when there’s the stronger emotional aspect of the situation, suddenly the vet is a monster. How dare they refuse to accept your desperate, broken promises as payment for saving fluffy? OBVIOUSLY they just want money. Never mind that veterinarians make pennies when compared to the salaries of other doctors with LESS training. Nevermind that veterinarians have one of the highest suicide rates. No one is expecting an owner to have a hidden bucket of money somewhere, but we SHOULD expect that they have some kind of emergency plan. At my clinic, we accept care credit as a way to make payments over time. Many vets do. If you don’t qualify, it means care credit looked at your credit report and decided you weren’t worth the risk. Why on EARTH does that suddenly mean the vet needs to take on the risk?
Let’s go further… Say the vet, in a moment of insanity, agrees to do whatever needs done if you agree to pay it off in a few weeks. What do we do when your number has changed, you’ve moved, the check bounced, or the card was cancelled? Spend MORE money to attempt to sue you or send you to collections? And what is there to be gained from doing so? If you HAD the money, you would have paid it. So we lose, again.
So, either we are monsters who can stay in business (and continue providing care) with the help of the good, respectful, paying clients that don’t come to us with excuses, or we are completely burned. One too many losses and there goes the practice – it closes because we were too “compassionate” to pay the bills.
Holli Coats Stone says
With all due respect – I feel the need to clarify a few things…
If I have a vehicle that breaks down and I don’t have the money to fix it – I have OPTIONS. My LIFE does not depend on getting my vehicle fixed. I can carpool, borrow a vehicle, take public transportation, walk, shop around, consider partial work on my vehicle, buy used parts, trade my vehicle in, etc… At no point am I euthanized because I can’t afford to fix my vehicle. I’m not sure how you can relate a vet being kinda like a mechanic – other than the fact that, in the eyes of the law, you both work on property?
The veterinary profession has grown from annual vaccinations to promoted wellness exams. Costs have grown from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. Yet, despite all of these advancements, the business side of veterinary care, a business that deals with life or death situations, has failed to recognize the need for growth.
It seems like what the practice of veterinary medicine is doing is essentially isolating the lower and middle classes from being able to afford pets. Soon – owning a pet will only be for the rich – as the lower to middle class often don’t have the disposable income to be able to outright afford the thousands of dollars of care. Instead of recognizing this – people cling to the age old philosophy that you should not get a pet if you can’t afford one. If your education, skills, diagnostics, tools, etc… have all advanced to the point where your costs are also higher to support the advancements – does it not make sense that you also step back and consider the impact it has on your customers? Does it not seem arrogant to tell the average customer how for several thousand dollars you can run diagnostics that may (or may not) be able to determine the cause of spinal compression in a dog? And after spending thousands of dollars to determine the cause – for another several thousand dollars, you may (or may not) be able to fix the problem with surgery. Then there is the post surgical care and rehab costs to consider. And if the customer doesn’t have a $20,000.00 emergency plan for a pet he/she rescued from the pound – they are shamed and told that if they can’t afford emergency care they should not get a pet.
My daughter’s dentist referred her to an orthodontist due to complications with her bite and teeth. She’s been every six months. I have not paid for one appointment – and every six months she has x-rays of her teeth. This privately owned orthodontist practice goes as far as renting out a local water park for a day and invites all of it’s customers (and one guest/customer) to come enjoy the day at no cost. The business manager is well trained in customer service.
My daughter will be going into braces in January – to the tune of upwards of $6000.00. And guess what – at no time have I been told that if I can’t front the $6000.00 up front – they can’t fix her bite/teeth. Instead, the business manager at the privately owned orthodontist practice offered me several payment plans to cover the cost. I got to pick the payment plan that best fit with my budget. Again, fixing ones bite/teeth is not a life or death practice. I have no doubt that spending the money on education and licensing to become an orthodontist is costly. Yet the profession has found a way to offer payment plans. I would also guess that not everyone who is offered payment plans follows through and despite delinquent accounts – orthodontist practices are still profitable.
In terms of salary – My understanding of other doctors – they pay very high malpractice costs that vets, because they work on property (vs. humans) don’t have to pay. They are compensated to cover those insurance premiums.
I don’t expect vets to work for free. Nor do I consider them to be money hungry. What I see is veterinary practices willing to charge more for advancements in medicine and to pay staff to maintain a social media presence. Yet despite adapting to these changing times, there is still a strong unwillingness to look at the bigger financial picture. Why not take a look at the business practices of other professions who offer payment plans? Why not discuss options at a conference? Many pay AVMA dues – why not look to the organization for assistance in working out the financials?
If expecting the customer to have funds in case of emergency situations is not working – why beat a dead horse? Why not be proactive and make the profession proud by exploring alternative options?
Keep in mind, no amount of money will fix certain life threatening conditions. At some point, the decision has to be made. We don’t put pets on life support, because it’s a huge waste. You keep mentioning thousands of dollars and pretending that we routinely kill treatable animals or lack of money. Please understand that because an animal can be “treated” does not mean that it should be. The little dog in the story was blue, struggling to breathe, and survived only in the oxygen tank for a few hours while the clinic decided what to do. They could have left it in the oxygen tank longer, but what would that have accomplished? The dogs condition was misunderstood by the family, and misreported about by the media. There was nothing much else to be done – a tracheotomy was proposed but that is not easy, and we have no way of knowing what that dog’s prognosis would be after such a difficult surgery. Likely, had the family been reunited with the pet, one of 3 things would have happened: either they would have decided to euthanize as the clinic did, they would have taken him home to die, or they would have paid -up front- for surgery that may or may not have benefited the dog. Had they microchipped the pet, they would have been given that chance.
You’re right, the field of vet medicine continues to expand. With our knowledge and assistance, pets are living longer, happier lives. We can repair more, save more, know more. You seem to be angry at this fact, and even angrier that we dare charge for things like advanced lab work, specialist consultation with radiographs, ultrasound, specialty surgery, etc. you think instead of making these things possible, we should be finding ways to make them free?
Being a pet owner doesn’t mean you have to have a ton of money, but it does mean knowing your own limits. If I could not afford a $5,000 surgery to fix my mastiff’s knee, and the alternative was for her to live in pain, I’d elect euthanasia, which still costs $200. At no point would I ever expect the doctor to do any of it for free. Nor would I ever use her as an excuse to make them feel guilty that I did not have the money. I could probably put it on a credit card, unlike some people, but then what? What if it destroyed my budget and I lost my home and my car? As a pet owner, we must remain realistic and ultimately, put the best interests of our pets first.
My analogy to the car was not comparing myself vs a pet, it was the car vs the pet. I was comparing them both as property to illustrate a point; there is a difference in that, while a car can sit and rust and no one cares, a pet will die. So suddenly, SOMEONE has to pay!!! Someone has to DO SOMETHING about it!! What I’m asking is, why is it fair to pin the responsibility on the veterinarian? You don’t walk into a store and tell them, “I’m hungry, so you should give me that chicken dinner or free or you’re a heartless person.” Why on earth is it ok to vilify a doctor and tell them the same thing because they won’t perform a costly and risky procedure that MIGHT save a suffering pet when there is no owner to be found? Do you realize, had the dog had a broken leg, it would have been carefully splinted, and pain meds given to stabilize the pet, FOR FREE in the liklihood the owners were found? Do you realize, that had there been anything else REASONABLY in their power to do to stabilize and comfort the pet, they would have done so? No one ever thanks the doctors for doing these things – and trust me, that happens way more frequently than people realize- but they should.
Veterinarians are at the mercy of the pharmaceutical companies like everyone else. We can’t send home medicine at no charge when it’s over $2 per pill. We can’t give you the good flea products for the same price as the dollar store junk because they cost us $15 a dose. We can’t vaccinate, spay, or in dire circumstances, attempt to save your pets life for free either. Don’t let the stress and trauma of a dire situation trick you into thinking we don’t care- cause we do. We make a meager to modest income, drive used cars or clinkers, have to budget wisely, travel rarely, and have our own pets to care for too.
Oh, and in all those years of learning things, we’ve learned that payment plans do not work. We are a vet clinic, not a bank. If you need a payment plan, you should have a credit card. When you buy anything with a payment plan, you go through a credit check. If you don’t have good credit, you don’t get the money. It’s that simple. You’re asking the vet to do what a bank or credit company knows not to: basically loan you money when we have no reason to believe we’ll get it back. There ARE options for payment plans : care credit, pet insurance, etc. lots of companies do see the need for help in these situations. But they will still say no if you can’t pass a credit check. We have at least 5 people in EVERY clinic, EVERY day, tell us “that’s too much”, “I can’t afford that”, or “can’t I pay you next week?” If, over the course of time, we knew that these people would always pay us back, it wouldn’t matter. But on the few occasions where we just can’t say no – we always get screwed. What meant SO much to that panicked person when their pet needed help, no longer matters. They got what they want, and there’s nothing we can do about it. They change vets.
It’s not a Money problem, it’s an attitude problem. People like you need to stop feeling entitled to things. Yes, even in desperate circumstances.
You are being very dramatic at best.
We work with client. On a general basis, I will have different treatment plan, depending on the situation: generally they could be cathegorised as such:
A: Go in a specialised hospital
B: Hospitalisation with diagnostic testing and appropriate treatment pending results
C: Hospitalisation with symptomatic treatment but no testing
D: Symptomatic treatment at home.
E: Paliative care
Depending on the case, different options will be available. Sometime, F is the only option. Sometime A is the only option. Most cases will have 2-4 of those options. But some times, no matter how much you would want otherwise, there is no plan C or D. Some animals need very extensive and expensive care and there is nothing we can do to change that.
My job is to tell the owners which of those options are appropriate for their pets. Then tell them the cost, risks and benefits of each one so they can make their choice about what they can (or want) to pay for and the amount of care they want to do.
Vet’s do a lot to make care affordable. I do free follow up appointments every single say. We do 2nd surgery free of charge if there is any kind of complication (even for complication that are absolutely not the vet’s fault, or even clearly the owner’s own fault) We often only charge anesthesia if a pet requires multiple surgery in a short amount of time. I credit some of the treatments I do on my hospitalized patients all the time as well. I remove prescription fee all the time. I do my best to use generic versions of medication whenever I can. We also do free neuters/spay and vaccines for our local shelter every single week.
We also DO provide payment plans. Many vets do. And we offer it to every client who needs it. But when the credit company refuse an owner, or the owner simply refuse to apply for it because they know they will be refused. Why do you think that I should take that risk? It’s not a once per year thing. It’s something that I face on a weekly, if not daily basis.
At some point, owners have to face their own responsibilities as well. And I don’t think that you are a bad owner because you can’t or don’t want to put 20 000$ on a pet. I don’t even think you are a bad owner if you can’t afford 1000$, or even 500$.
I think people who have pets should at least be able to afford vaccination and sterilization (seeing as those are 100% predictable expenses, one should be 100% capable of planning for it before getting a pet) And hopefully have a couple hundreds to at least be able to afford a vet visit in case of emergency, but sometimes bad things can happen and I understand that.
That being said, I will work with every single owner to provide the best care possible with their budget. But sometimes, there is no plan be. If you have no way of paying for the care your pet needs, that’s on you, don’t try to put it on me. I already do more than my part to provide affordable care. But someone has to pay at some point, and it can’t always be me.
Anna Brown says
Humans with no money are paid for by tax dollars (if they have no insurance). Veterinarians do not have that financial luxury.
Humans which are overpopulated are not euthanized.
There is no apt comparison between the systems that govern human and animal care in our society.
What do you do for work, Cassandra? Do you do it for free if the client doesn’t have money? What if 80% of your clients don’t have money, do you also give them services for free? Well, if not, obviously that means you shouldn’t be in your profession, correct?
Cassandra Sumwun says
Funny you mention my profession. At my job, (in fact every job I’ve ever had) we wait 30+ days for payment from most of our clients, some pay in 60-90 days – and we’re talking TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, not hundreds. We NEVER get paid on the spot when our job is complete. In fact, it’s that way in many industries that have regular clients and provide services to them. The vast majority of businesses are not there with a “life saving” purpose, either. Vets are there to save animals lives, not take them because the patient is between pay periods. And you made my point even more with the fact that we don’t kill humans (not “euthanize”, because there is a clear definition of that, and this does not fall under that by any stretch of the imagination) because they’re “overpopulated”. We shouldn’t be doing it to animals either. But yeah, we wait for payment like most other businesses out there. If someone doesn’t pay us, we have to cut our loss, or sue them in court. But again, no one’s LIFE depends on us either, with the exception that if we don’t do our jobs correctly someone could get hurt later on…
K G says
This animal WAS euthanized by your definition. It was suffering, horribly and there no guarantee a tracheostomy would have saved it. In fact, it was only a low chance. The dog was presumed to be much older than it really was so it was thought its chances of making it were even worse. Want to know why? Probably because it’s teeth were nasty from inbreeding (poms have genetically bad teeth usually) and its owners probably didn’t keep up with dental care. You say you don’t always get paid right away – how many times do you do another job for someone who owes you money but never pays? My guess is you don’t. Or if you do you that might explain why you say you can’t pay for your own pets care regularly. And when you get paid it’s usually a large sum at once. you have to pay for building supplies on the spot, right? And your workers, right? So do we. And if you don’t get paid eventually you will go out of business. Same with us. If I had a dime for every owner who claimed they would pay and NEVER paid at all, I’d be rich. I have taken animals home to keep owners from paying pricey ER fees and then had owners yell at me for being greedy and never paying at all. How many times have you built something for someone, paying all materials and workers yoursel out of the goodness of your heart knowing you’d never get paid? Maybe once at Christmas? We do that daily. When you can say that then maybe you can earn the right to preach at us. Go spend a week volunteering at a busy city funded animal shelter. You might learn something new. Until then, stick to construction.
And your last few lines are explaining the entire problem. If your financial situation is so bad that you don’t have any spare money, don’t have any credit card you can use, don’t have a credit margin and can’t qualify for care credit, why should a vet take the financial risk of making payment plan for you?
When you come in with your pet, of course your pet is the center of the universe. Or course it makes sense to you that your pet is the world for you, that you are going to pay us back, that we should work with you. But in our world, you are not the first client this month who couldn’t afford vet care, you aren’t the first one this week, you aren’t even the first one today, and you are probably not even the only one in the past hour.
And do you think that those who know they will never be able to pay me are honest about it? Everyone always say they are going to pay me next Thursday. Most of them don’t (I’ve been keeping tabs) For how many of those people should I offer treatment plans out of my own pocket? How am I supposed to know who can and can’t pay me back? I don’t have access to their credit records. And what am I supposed to do if they can’t pay me back, suck it up? Take their pets?
I also have employees to pay, they have their own family to support too. Do you think they’d mind if I told them I’d only be able to pay them ‘next Thursay’? And the company where I buy my medical supply, surely they won’t mind that I only pay them next Thursay. If we took in the responsibility of making payment plans for everyone. Every single vet clinic in the country would go bankrupt in 6 months. That’s the reality. It sucks, I really wish I could save all those pets. But we can’t
Cassandra Sumwun says
I get that you also have employees to pay, just like every other business out there. Someone below asked me about that and the fact is, many businesses have to wait for payment and in my profession, it’s TENS OF THOUSANDS, not hundreds – we wait for MINIMUM 30 days. I’m in construction now, so yes, we have some legal recourse, but most of our options still do not result in actual payment should someone not pay us. And we can’t go back and undo all the work either. But as I pointed out to the other person, no one’s LIFE is depending on us (aside from if we don’t do our work correctly someone could be hurt). But we NEVER get paid the moment the job is complete. And many businesses don’t but they manage to make it work. Why is it so different for a “life saving” profession? Why would you rather kill someone’s beloved pet than wait one week or settle for a series of payments? Again, most business, especially those with regular clients, do exactly that and they’re not responsible for lives…
Because many have done it in the past, and it doesn’t work.
On any given day, at least 1/3 of pet owners I see will decline testing or treatment, or opt for euthanasia because they can’t afford care. Every single day I work, that would be between 100-1000$ in payment plans only for myself….we are 6 full time vets. It would end up being in the tens of thousands in a matter of 2-3 weeks, and we would go bankrupt in a question of months because the reality is that a very important portion of those people will never have the means to pay us back.
So tell me, who is going to pick up the slack for all those owners who don’t pay? You think people would agree on a special tax to pay for the vet cares of those who can’t afford it?
I get that you care about animals, I do too, but I can’t pay for all of them.
Katie Barry says
Alright, you say thank god we can’t “do this” to human children. Want to know where you’d be if your human child showed up at an ER 2 days after you lost it? And humans have the benefit of millions of other people to pay for treatments they cannot. It’s called insurance and it’s also why the human medical scene is out of control. We as veterinarians are constantly struggling to make owners understand that while you think YOUR medical care is free, it’s not. You have insurance or if you don’t the rest of the population does and their premiums go up to pay for your care.
A tracheostomy would be over $10,000 in a human ER; a vet does it for $1000. Why is THAT OK? I’ve had 11 years of schooling and with a specialty training will never see the amount of money an MD starts out at. Have you ever seen a human struggling to breathe as they are dying? I have and wanted to go to my clinic and help them pass to end that suffering as it’s terrible to watch. Let’s not mention that vets make ¼ of what human docs make, rarely work for corporations where they have the access to lawyers and collection agencies to get their money back, & an average student debt of over $300,000 and that one emergency makes a big difference. And there’s always another one waiting at the door.
You liken medicine to your construction job…here’s another (outrageous) comparison. You go to the grocery store and your credit card is declined. How willing are they to let you take their goods with a verbal guarantee that “you’re good for it”? You go to the movies, again can’t pay…they let you in to enjoy their service?
You probably think it’s heartless, but as someone who has had to euthanize animals because of financial constraints for the last 10 years of my career, it is never easy. It’s heartless to take a living breathing being into your care and not prepare for an emergency or pay for a simple device that can show that your pet is owned. So maybe if you can’t afford $500 at that moment, you shouldn’t have a pet.
David Hall says
You are a dimwit if you believe veterinarians are greedy, evil people with no interest in saving animals. I’m sure thats why they take on massive debt to put themselves through intense schooling for many years. I doubt you have any comprehension of what it takes to run a small business and the fine line veterinarians walk in running a productive business. The fact is, if the hospital doesn’t bring in money, the hospital shuts down and then NO ANIMALS RECEIVE MEDICAL CARE.
Pets are a luxury, not a necessity. There is no public assistance for the cost of veterinary care and that should weigh in a person’s DECISION to add a pet to their family. I have had mothers yell at me in the vet ER “I don’t have to pay for my kids when I take them to the ER!” That’s because … while I think children should be viewed as a luxury … they are not. Having a child is a “right” owning a pet is not.
Katie Shippen says
I’m sure if a veterinarian had a dollar for every time they had someone expect free services they wouldn’t need to work. Human children get health insurance… if a person considers their pet their child then they should have pet insurance to cover that child. I have pet insurance for all of my pets because they are like my children. Also, a human child that is not covered under a parents health insurance gets care from a human hospital that is highly subsidized by the government. A human hospital can absorb costs easily while a veterinary hospital takes a huge loss when providing free or discounted services. I have seen plenty of animals get care in spite of their owners lack of funds/ability to be a responsible pet owner… I have paid out of my own pocket for an animal to have a surgery or medication it needs. All of my animals are mine because they got sick and their original owners did not prepare themselves for the responsibility of owning a pet. Also, most veterinary hospitals will provide initial pain medication and a list of low cost resources because we can’t ethically send a painful animal without something to tide it over. It is my job to care for animals, but it is not my job, nor any other veterinary professionals job, to work for free because people who own pets aren’t prepared to take responsibility for them. Did you know that the veterinary profession has one of the highest suicide rates? Part of the reason is that there are people who call them greedy monsters, who say they should work for free and who disrespect and devalue the sacrifice they made by going into veterinary medicine instead of human medicine (veterinarians make a fraction of what a human doctor makes while having to attend just as much education and licensure). Veterinary technicians are also HIGHLY undervalued, and underpaid. I paid $30K for school to obtain education to become a licensed veterinary nurse, the tests I had to take cost almost $1,000 and to maintain my license I have to attend expensive lectures and pay expensive licensing fees- all while the average wage of an RVT in California is around $16. My bills don’t get paid if I don’t get paid… and if the services I render are done for free then I don’t have a job. It all boils down to the fact that people seem to forget that pet ownership is a privilege and not a right.
yeah.. no.. this didn’t come down to money. I’ve worked in veterinary medicine for decades and we don’t just euthanize any stray that walks in the door. Every vet I have every worked at will take reasonable measures to save even a stray pet; however, when a stray comes in in obvious life-threatening distress decisions have to be made. If this were an owned pet, extreme measures might be taken to attempt to save the pet, often as much to benefit the owner as benefit the pet. However, with a stray, asking a vet to employ extreme measures to fight a losing battle and prolong a pet’s struggle is ridiculous.
A few things in the article:
1. tracheotomy. This being a recommended course of action already means that the animal is in TROUBLE. This means they punch a hole in the trachea and attach a breathing contraption because the dog’s windpipe is so swollen, blocked up or non-functional that the pet cannot pass air. I’ve dealt with TONS of dogs with “tracheal problems,” and this is rare.
2. Ibuprofen. Vets don’t treat with this. That shows me that the owner was self-medicating and likely not in control of the pet’s condition (which can, btw, worsen over time). Additionally, it can have very serious side effects that in themselves can cause serious illness.
3. Pet was turning blue and required supplemental oxygen. Again – this is bad and sign of a VERY serious condition.
Basically, this dog was not “sick,” he was in a load of trouble that MAY have been resolved with serious veterinary care, but likely had a pretty grave prognosis. Additionally, it really sucks when you can’t breath and your body is not oxygenated… So the pet was suffering. That is what it came down to… Either perform a difficult and risky procedure on a gravely ill animal with no known home to go to.. or put the little guy out of his misery. I have SEEN end-stage tracheal distress. It is nothing short of torture.
Veterinarians hate to euthanize pets, even the strays. Almost all of them go into the profession because they love animals – not just owned ones – all of them. They cry along with owners when they euthanize their patients, and they celebrate the victories. They stay up late nights agonizing over cases and remember beloved patients like their own pets.
Are there bad vets? Yes. There are bad teachers, bad firemen, and bad ministers too Overall, though, they are caring people who go through A LOT of schooling all to be one of the lowest paying “professionals,” and STILL get media coverage like this suggesting they are just out for money because it grabs headlines.
Frankly, vets HAVE to charge for services and they CAN’T bill because people don’t pay. Every vet I’ve ever worked for who “billed” had HUGE numbers of unpaid accounts because once the pet has been treated the owners don’t seem prioritize their veterinary bills. Where I work, we rarely bill. When we do, only about 50% of the people ever pay. See the problem? That being said, I’ve never worked for a vet who didn’t do good Samaritan work. We give away medications and services all the time when we feel it is warranted and the pet is suffering or will benefit from some basic care that we can afford them.
Arvla Yvonne Gurganious-Bellam says
I sympathize with all involved. A puppy was brought in with respiratory distress. I have been in the same situation. My dog was dying from Hemolytic anemia. The ER Vet explained it would not be unethical to euthanized for financial reasons. I gave it long hard thought then my mother just happen to call while I was saying my goodbyes. . Scooby had a angel with him. She told me to not do it and would make some calls. As we prepared him for a trip to Virginia Tech for treatment the vet started him on the oral protocol to stabilize for the trip (5hours). For some reason we had to stop at the vets before we left the next morning. Scooby had survived two more days. The vet had already received a fax from the weekends ER visit then ask were was he. Just happen to be with us in the car. With are another word he told the assistant s to get Scooby out of the car. And then let me know he could give him the blood transfusions he needed.. Scooby was well cared for for a week in the ICU.then follow up treatment over a year until he went into remission. I and Scooby were fortunate and he lived another6 years at the age of 14. I am very grateful for that extra time. But we have to remember to prepare for the unexpected. Collar, chip,updated info, all can help save a life of a dear friend, Burnaby, love one. Had this couple not known what was wrong the same choice could have been made even if they were there and could not afford his treatment. My mom was prepared to pay the $3000 plus for the transfusion. My vet charged only $700 because he had a donor dog on the premises. And I was able to pay myself.
My heart goes out to the Bridges fo4 their loss. So sorry!?