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How to be Prepared if your Pet has an Emergency

Since the beginning of the pandemic, veterinary practices have been inundated with calls for assistance. While doing our best to meet the demand, we are also being yelled at, insulted, told we do not care about animals, and hung up on. I feel one reason for the rudeness and basically what I would consider harassment, is people not understanding the difference between a veterinary practice and a 501C3 charity.

A VETERINARY PRACTICE is a business. We do not get donations, we do not get products and equipment at greatly reduced prices, and we do not have volunteers. We pay payroll. We pay taxes, insurance, and we buy our products and equipment at full price.

A 501C3 CHARITY or a non-profit organization is vastly different. They are supposed to operate based on a mission statement, which usually involves finding homes for unwanted animals. Often these charities branch out and do other things, such as seeing owned animals for dentistry, surgery and routine vaccinations. They can do these things at a greatly reduced cost, because they do not pay taxes, they have very little to no payroll due to volunteers, they rely heavily on funding from the government and from private donations, and they get medications and equipment at a greatly reduced price. Often very expensive equipment is even donated. An example would be a charity being able to purchase rabies vaccinations for five cents, while a veterinary practice must pay five dollars for the same exact vaccine. Pet owner usually have very limited accessibility to these facilities due to very limited hours of operation.

There are ways to avoid getting yourself in a situation where you are unable to get veterinary assistance when your pet needs it:

1.Have an Established Relationship with a Veterinary Hospital.

If a practice recognizes your name on their caller ID, they will most likely find a way to assist you. If you are going to the local feed store or a vaccine clinic for your animal’s vaccines, make sure they will be available when your animal needs care. I know of no veterinary practice which works hand in hand with a charity. If you are getting your care from a charity, make sure that charity is available when you need after hours assistance.

2. Have an emergency bank account, credit card, pet insurance or another fund set aside for emergency care. Care Credit, Scratch Pay, and Pumpkin Insurance are just some of the examples of ways to have a back up plan if you have an emergency.

3.Be Kind and Considerate to whomever you are calling in need of assistance. The person answering the phone is probably already overtaxed and overworked and has probably already been yelled at that day by yet another unprepared pet owner.

4. Accept Responsibility.

Your pet is a privilege, not a right. Veterinary practices run solely on profit. We are not a bank, a lending institution, or a Charity. If you find yourself under prepared for an emergency, there are some charity's that will help, but be prepared to have at least half of the estimated procedure ready. There are so many instances that hospitals have been promised the funds only to have the owner refuse to pay. In that case the owner, typically the veterinarian, is out not only the cost of the procedure but also the money they had to pay their employees to assist them. If you can't afford a unexpected veterinary bill, be up front and honest, lying is theft.

5. Be Prepared to Pay for Care

If you cannot afford care for your pet, ask for assistance from friends and family. Do not expect a veterinary practice to help you for free, then say we don’t care about animals when we cannot. We care about animals, honestly probably too much, we already do our job at a huge discount, ever look at your medical bills? Veterinarians go to school the same time as a human doctor and they have to learn about every species not just one.

Every veterinary practice I know is in operation because they want to help animals. We want to provide the best care, in the most educated and humane way, and we want to prevent suffering. Small private practices are owned by a veterinarian. A veterinarian who took an *Oath. An oath we all take very seriously. With that being said, we are a for profit business. In order to survive and pay out our expenditures, we must make a profit. Our prices are our prices. They are non-negotiable. Screaming insults and hanging up on our staff will get you fired as a client or not seen as a new caller. Again, pet ownership is a privilege. If you cannot afford care that is your responsibility. Taking out your frustration on people doing their best to provide a service is not just rude it is inexcusable.

Hopefully the above statements will help owners understand the difference between a veterinary practice and a charity. Veterinary medicine has one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. This is largely due to the abuse we suffer daily at the hands of unprepared pet owners. Be responsible, be prepared, be kind, and be grateful. Veterinary practices are tired of the abuse, and we aren’t going to take it anymore. Please think about the advice in this article before you make another angry call.

*Veterinarian's Oath

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

This was written by Dr. Anita McMillen VMD of Braden Run Animal Hospital. This office serves the Greene county and surrounding areas.

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