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Norwich Bulletin - 4/9/2006

$$ Emergency $$

While I was making some Helping Paws bank transactions the other day, one of my favorite tellers asked me if she could get some advice from me. I figured it was another behavior question with respect to her very active eight month old Lab puppy. But it ended up being so much more than that and a prerequisite to my own emergency experience.

Kids and puppies can be a hard thing to manage at times and on a Sunday afternoon, the little black lab succeeded in running out the door as the kids were coming into the house. It didnít take him long to find the road and get hit by a car.

Sunday afternoon leaves few choices for veterinarian services, so the family rushed him to the nearest twenty-four hour care veterinary hospital. Everyone was stunned when they were told they had to pre-pay a minimum of $1,500 before the doctors would even look at their dog. This family didnít have that much money, nor do they have credit cards that would allow them to guarantee a payment of that magnitude.

The hospital even suggested she call family and friends to try and get the money up! And the terrible end result was that they made her turn over ownership of her puppy to the veterinary hospital in order to insure that their family petís life could be saved.

How devastating for this family. The accident was bad enough and everyone was feeling guilty enough, but to be basically told you are not a good pet owner because you do not have a lot of money and to not be given a chance to make monthly payments in order to keep your childrenís puppy, seems to me to be morally and ethically wrong. Obviously the Hippocratic Oath does not carry through to animal medicine.

The family was desperate to find out if their puppy had lived and what would happen to him. If nothing else they needed closure. I made some suggestions and hope that they will follow through.

One month later, late one Saturday afternoon, my husband came to me very worried about our little pregnant Abyssinian, Tequilla. She was bleeding and had a serious discharge which told us she probably had a uterine infection and would die without immediate veterinary care. Our own wonderful vets are no longer twenty-four hour care and had just closed a few hours earlier. We knew if we waited until the next morning when they reopened, there was a chance our kitty would not make it.

Remembering my bank tellerís recent experience, Clint went to a different emergency veterinary hospital. My husband called me to let me know that the estimated care of Tequilla for an emergency spay would be between $1,200 and $1,700 dollars! While we are lucky enough to have a credit card specially designated for veterinary emergencies, it is still an unbelievable price for less than twenty-four hours of care.

Tequilla did have an emergency spay, fluids and antibiotics, as well as bloodwork. But other charges were questionable such as $80 for a one night stay for a little cat? How big was the cage? I can go to a decent hotel for less than that and have a whole room with a private bath. And then there was the anesthesia charge - $180 for the anesthesia and an additional $180 for a mask (that I didnít even get to keep).

The charges went on and on, and while I appreciate the fact that it was a Saturday evening and I understand emergency charges, there has to be some type of limit put on what these hospitals can charge the general public. I do not have an extra $2,000 hanging around the house at any given time Ė and if I did not have the credit available to me, I would now be fighting to get my own cat back.

I am thrilled that they saved Tequilla (although at this writing she is not recovering very well and we still may lose her), and would uncomplainingly have handed them a fair emergency payment to save her life. However, I maintain that the charges we incurred were unfair and not conducive to the average person being able to afford this type of care.

So the result is that middle class families (and below) are forced to lose their pets, either through death (because they know they do not have the money for the emergency care), or because they have to legally turn them over to an emergency clinic in order to receive treatment! Either way, something needs to change.

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