Defense of Spay Neuter Clinics 2.0

I was disappointed to read the “Hot Button” column in the November issue of Veterinary Economics. Despite a number of concerns facing the veterinary industry today, VE elected to print the second submission in seven months by the same author, and, more or less, about the same topic.

 

In devaluing low-cost spay and neuter (LCSN) clinics, Dr. Craig Woloshyn (who is credited as a member of the VE Advisory Board) has even used some of the same language that was printed in his April 2010 article.  I responded then, and feel compelled to do so again.

 

To be certain, I am not a spay/neuter activist – I manage a multi-doctor mixed practice in rural Oregon.  We have worked extensively for years with our local shelter and other providers of LCSN programs and continue to run one specific program of our own.  Our practice grosses seven figures; our Doctors and staff, as well as myself, are all paid well above the nationwide average salary for our positions – all with a fee schedule that continues to be a bargain by some standards. 

 

My problem is two-fold.  First of all, Dr. Woloshyn is wrong…..LCSN programs can be a productive component of fighting pet overpopulation.  I don’t have to be a DVM to understand that, with respect to social problems, failing to act has an exponentially negative effect, even if taking action falls short of our desired outcome.  Unless he is suggesting that cats and dogs would reach a “nature imposed” population ceiling if allowed to breed freely, then the case can be made that the problem would be much worse if not for our industry’s efforts.

 

So if we can agree that altering pets improves, even if slightly, the forecast for population, the subject of low cost programs is still left to debate.  In the past, our practice typically performed a total of 300 feline spay/neuter procedures per year, and that number was the same from year to year despite economical changes and our practice growth.  After expanding our cooperation with local humane organizations and creating our own in-house low-cost cat neuter program, that number rose to nearly 1,000 procedures per year.  For anyone doing the math, that’s 700 cats per year that are no longer procreating, and while that may not dent Dr. Woloshyn’s 40% unaltered statistic, it’s certainly a move in the right direction.

 

Though pet overpopulation pales on the list of other social problems that we face in this world, it’s a relief to know that the same approach is not being applied to decisions about other issues such as famine, illiteracy, or disaster relief. What kind of world would it be if we only applied our resources where total success could be achieved?

 

My second problem is the decision to print what is essentially a retread of old ideas.  All I seem to read lately is ‘101 ways’ for consultants to say the same thing…..Veterinarians should charge more and stop worrying about it.  Continuing to focus on this one issue (which we all decide on our own anyway) is shortchanging the need to hear about real problems.  For every veterinarian who under charges, there is one who overcharges (that is a blasphemous statement, no doubt), and who’s business is that but their own? 

Lower cost practices can’t damage the industry…have you ever seen an association of fine dining establishments lobby to eliminate McDonalds?  Instead, they understand the concept of target marketing, and creating (selling) the “experience” of a customer visit, not to mention great food.  Here’s an interesting exercise for managers – ask your clients to rank their priorities for a visit to your practice (I have). It’s a truth most would rather not hear, but many clients put the resolution of their pet’s medical problems way down the list - often behind customer service, thorough explanations, wait time, convenience of hours, cost of services, etc.

 

The veterinary industry faces many serious issues - the evolving role of the certified technician; the lack of business preparation in new graduates; how to bridge the mentor role from one generation to the next; the role of staff in “training” new graduates; and the inconsistency of state’s practice acts, to name just a few.  Isn’t it time to break some new ground and get outside of the box?  I admit, 15 years ago, I was fascinated by the cutting edge advice from veterinary management experts, but that excitement has been replaced by the feeling that today’s consultants are still singing a few really old songs.

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  • Dear Defense 2.0


    Thank you.  This need not be so hostile.  LCSN provide a service.  We work to have a good relationship with the one in our community, and they inturn refer clients to us.  We don't really want to fill our schedule with spays and neuters all day...or we would have become a spay-neuter clinic ourselves!


    I agree that the topics have become narrow and redundant.  We recently hired an associate, and could hardly find any useful information here on the process, job description, performance evaluations or contracts.  Lots of info on the ongoing pro-sal debate, but not a lot of help on what we wanted to know.  I'll admit, we purchased "The Veterinary Practice Management Handbook" some years back, and that the information we are looking for is in there...however, it seems to have been misplaced... I'm guessing the info is not available here, because you want us to buy the book?


    Maybe DVM 360 should track topics that we enter in the "search" field... and look into a few new subject areas!

    villagepets, 3 years ago | Flag
  • as a practice owner newly faced with a local low-cost, full service tax exempt, volunteer workforce facility, i believe the previous post's "mcdonald's" analogy is a poor one.  unlike my local clinic, mcdonald's, like your "fine dining" comparison, does pay taxes and wages.  a better analogy is that of a huge corporate practice such as banfield.  and i do not hear anyone complaining about them.  rather, it's the uneven playing field, and the continued devaluing of our worth by making even our services (surgery, client education, etc.) no less of a commodity than is a tube of advantage, that "we" bemoan.  md's do not advertise "bare bones, low cost" hysterectomies!! 

    tridoc73, 3 years ago | Flag
  • I  wish my local spay neuter clinic would make an effort to educate their clients about what they should be doing to keep their pets healthy.  They say their clients "don't care about that".  And I  say , you are wrong, your clients "don't know about that."  Beause they (clients)  bring the ill pet to me to try and save when it would have been better to prevent the problem in the first place.


    Things like parvo puppies, heartworm disease, and feline leukemia.  I see way too  many cases due to their refusal to offer client education and proper vaccination protocols.


    Their veterinarian certainly isn't upholding their medical oath, in my opinion.  

    AndyMathis, 3 years ago | Flag
  • This debate is getting very fierce, and understandably so, since those that work in LCSN and TNR programs are very passionate about what they do, protective of the animals that are needlessly suffering, and empathatic to those less-fortunate individuals who deserve the joy of responsible pet ownership as much as one who can afford private veterinary care.  I myself routinely volunteer with shelters and animal welfare programs, and I share that passion.


    HOWEVER, with that said, and as I alluded to in a previous post.  BOTH SIDES need to refer to scientific data when making statements as fact.  This is especially true for those leaders in the field to whose opinions the profession-at-large respect and will have impact on whole communities or more.  For example, an authoratative opinion, as Dr. Woloshyn's, could be used as justification for legislators to make counter-productive decisions.


    I am not suggesting that this debate on DVM360 be stopped, but I suggest to all readers and posters on this forum that screaming your opinion louder does not make it more correct.  It just makes it into a typical Internet blog where people choose to opine without backing it up.  Further, personal attacks on Dr. Woloshyn or any other member of this thread will only serve to hurt your argument and steer away people who otherwise could make valuable contributions or take away thoughts from an interesting debate.


    The process of science is DISPROVING a hypothesis.  The current hypothesis is as follows: "LCSN and TNR are beneficial to society and public health and work to enhance animal welfare."  If one feels that this is wrong, and since LCSN and TNR are widespread and accepted practices, the burden lies on the skeptic to disprove this hypothesis.


    There could be rigorous scientific evidence that LCSN and TNR do not work.  If this is the case, it is our duty as professionals and advocates in the field to find solutions that do work and put them to the test. 

    polymer, 4 years ago | Flag
  • I would ask that Dr. Bruce read the following letter to Dr. Woloshyn which contains statistics on the efficacy of LCSN and it's effect on the pet population.


    Dear Doctor:


    How dare you attack a movement that is saving animal lives on a daily basis.  I, for one, will stand and say YOU, sir, are a fraud.  As a veterinarian you took an oath, not to protect your salary and your worth.  As a human being, perhaps you overvalue yourself.  As a contributor your sentence structure is atrocious.


    Personal beliefs aside, you have no basis in fact stating that low-cost spay neuter clinics have 'had very little effect on the dog and cat population in this county'.  I dare you to find a city that has implemented a spay/neuter program whose shelter euthanasia rate has not decreased.  You can hate it all you want, but the numbers don't lie.  If you'd like some statistics here are a few I found easily by researching for approximately 3 minutes, this one from the Cornell University Shelter Medicine Program:


    "The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 4-6 million cats and dogs are euthanized annually in this country. This number has decreased markedly since the 1980's when an estimated 17 million were killed annually. Awareness of the magnitude of the problem, humane education, promotion of surgical sterilization, and other animal control efforts have contributed to this dramatic decrease."


    The website goes on to say:


    "Controlling reproduction of dogs and cats remains critically important: addressing the welfare of surplus pets begins by not allowing the surplus to develop in the first place. Efforts at increasing sterilization must include:
    - Low income communities: known to be a leading source of surplus pets; tax dollars could be spent to subsidize spay/neuter, rather than euthanasia; services must be accessible."



    And just to keep things relevant, here's one from your neck of the woods:


    "The Humane Society of the Black Hills is thrilled to announce their new low-cost spay/neuter & vaccination program now open to the public. Over five years ago the Humane Society of the Black Hills mandated that all animals adopted from its facility be spayed or neutered. As a result of this requirement, the euthanasia rates have decreased by almost 50 percent."


    Just curious, did you personally waste time or money to send willing and capable doctors to school to perform "a simple procedure"?  Let's leave personal choice out of this.  Please, tell me you're not one of those who also believe women should not practice veterinary medicine because they are lowering the salaries of male veterinarians by having the temerity to bare children.  I have a funny feeling that most of the people who are working hard to decrease the pet overpopulation in this country are not doing it, as you say, 'so the rest of the human population will love us'.  On the contrary, we're doing it because of what we love and value--the creatures who share with us their unconditional love, the kind only animals can give and deserve to receive in return. 


    I'm sorry that your greed has led you to attack the good will of others, and to attack a practice that is essential to animal welfare.  Please reread your copy of the Veterinary Oath, and weep as you realize you have not upheld it.


    Happy Holidays, Mr. Grinch.


    Sincerely,


    Brandy Tanner
    Animal Advocate and Veterinary Medical Professional


    P.S.  If you don't want to do it for the animals, then do it for the good of the tax paying citizens of Custer, South Dakota.


    http://www.guerrillaeconomics.biz/communitycats/ReportViewer.aspx


    But then again, you know all about Veterinary Economics.  You can figure it out for yourself.


    Source list:


    http://www.sheltermedicine.vet.cornell.edu/spayNeuter/noHomeless.htm


    http://hsbh.org/

    shadoesoul, 4 years ago | Flag

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