Discussion: Should emergency animal clinics be required to provide a ‘minimum of care?’

UPDATE July 9: I heard from the rescue who stepped up who was at this e-vet at the time and that rescue is making sure the bill is covered. Rescue talked to the staff at that particular clinic and they did confirm that no, they would not treat a dying animal if funds weren’t covered at the time of service. The rescue got the same reply from each and every veterinarian contacted that night. This is the way things are done. Unfortunately, there is no fair way to handle the situation to prevent unscrupulous pet owners from misusing the system. These rules are in place because people haven’t paid in the past. The puppy is recovering.

This article is about whether emergency animal clinics should be required to provide a minimum of care, even if the owner cannot pay the bill in its entirety at the time of treatment. What should a pet owner do in a true life-or-death emergency?

Injured cat
Picture courtesy The Moscow Times.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The topic of this discussion was brought to my attention shortly after midnight when a puppy was turned away from an emergency clinic in North Carolina after possibly ingesting antifreeze. The owner didn’t have the funds to cover the entire bill and was literally sitting in a parking lot trying to find someone to help her dog.

Emergency clinics are expensive. Most charge $100+ just to walk in the door. Add on tests and treatment and possibly hospitalization, and the bill can quickly get out of control for the average pet owner.

We can talk about the importance of having pet insurance or a line of credit specifically for pets and that a person who can’t afford emergency treatment shouldn’t own a pet in the first place. Emergencies do happen. A stray is injured or a dog is attacked by another dog. Things that aren’t daily routine for most animal lovers/owners.

What is a reasonable plan to get the poor pet treated while protecting the clinic as a business that must turn a profit to survive?

Should veterinary clinics be able to do this? To turn away a suffering animal at the door because the owner can’t pay? A lot of pet owners end up in this situation and any thoughts as to how to handle an emergency are open for discussion in the comment section.

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8 thoughts on “Discussion: Should emergency animal clinics be required to provide a ‘minimum of care?’”

  1. I was at my regular vets office one afternoon and a dog was hit in traffic. It has escaped its home and had on a collar and microchipped and the vet started treatment immediately. The dog survived. I asked them about it the next week when I was in there.

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  2. A lot of animals are rescued from the streets after being abandoned, thrown from cars, TNR’d too young, etc. They often don’t even belong to the person who’s trying to get emergency treatment.

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  3. I believe it is wrong to turn away pets in emergencies but then again these clinics are businesses.

    What about making it obligatory for all pet owners to take out a special form of pet health insurance which only covers specific health issues encountered in emergencies which would mean the insurance would be cheap and affordable to all?

    Call it emergency pet health insurance. It would not cover all the usual diseases etc.. Just emergencies such as poisoning and broken bones and so on.

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    • Micheal in the US we can’t get them to register their pets for a yearly license that helps pay for Animal Control and the shelters.

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      • Yes, I can imagine. I am dreaming but I guess it’s allowed 🙂 I think some sort of yearly payment from cat owners – a small sum, say $10 – would help both shelters, provide some free vaccination services, support TNR, provide basic insurance and so on.

        $10 would raise getting on for a billion dollars in revenue nationally from cat owners (less running costs!). You could do a lot with that for cat welfare. If both cat and dog owners paid the $10 you’d have up to 2 bn dollars.

        This is hinting at a national licensing program. But as you say no one is interested. I don’t think $10 is much to provide a lot of good and it would help (I hope) reduce irresponsible pet ownership.

        Of course it would be almost unenforceable so the amount raised would be half of what it should be! Enforceability is the weakness. It might be that the running costs are prohibitive.

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  4. If that were required, we would no longer have e-vets, they would simply go to private practice. Anderson recently lost their 24 hour vet service because it’s hard to staff and vets want to be well compensated.

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    • Especially if they work serious cases after normal business hours. They have to have money to pay for all of those diagnostic machines. I didn’t realize Anderson had lost their e-vet.

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  5. I Believe they should..I’ve been there..its an act of compassion..I do understand they can’t work for free but during off days and hours there’s no one to turn to. When things occur when advocates and rescues can’t be reached i believe the emergency clinics should help..There is funding out there but there are times they just can’t be reached.

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