State board rejects rule that could close nonprofit spay/neuter clinics
Just a comment from my perspective. First I'm grateful they didn't let vets corner the market on s/n in Alabama.
My observation is most vets I know aren't concerned with all the cats and dogs being killed each year in kill shelters and running loose abandoned. They are not being proactive and trying to solve this problem. Joe general public is the one trying! To stop non profits and independent s/n clinics from their mission is reprehensible. This is pure GREED, shown by the group vets part who brought this before the Veterinary Medical Examiners Board in Alabama.
MONTGOMERY, Alabama - Nonprofit spay and neuter clinics won a victory this afternoon as a state board rejected a rule that advocates said would have shut the clinics down.
The Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners unanimously voted to reject the proposed rule change. The quiet vote came after a passionate public hearing in which animal advocates said closing the clinics would cause an animal population explosion in a state with already high euthanasia rates of companion animals.
"I'm very pleased. The public spoke, and the board listened," said Mark Nelson, executive director of Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic in Irondale.
The proposed rule would have prohibited non-veterinarians, including non-profit groups, from owning or controlling the use of veterinarian equipment and also prohibit a veterinarian from working for a non-veterinarian such as a nonprofit. Clinic directors said that could essentially shut them down since the nonprofits own the equipment and contract with a veterinarian to provide medical service.
Alyce Addison, legal counsel for the board, said she recommended the board not approve the rules because the change went beyond their authority.
"I gave a legal opinion to the board that basically they were legislating if they passed this rule," Addison said.
"I think it was above the power granted to them by the Legislature," Addison said. Addison said the rules were patterned after those that govern dental clinics and dentists and were already in the pipeline when she became the board's lawyer in August.
Dozens of animal rescue volunteers, shelter workers and others crowded into the public hearing this morning and were forced to wait outside the small boardroom as the board made its decision. Cheers and applause erupted as word of the vote spread.
"I'm delighted," said Rachel Tears, the founder of the Alabama Animal Alliance in Montgomery.
Addison, who noted that she was new to representing the board, said the purpose of the proposed rules was to make sure that veterinarians at any facility weren't being forced to practice in a certain way such as "perform more surgeries in a day than they are able to do."
However, Margaret Ferrell, the veterinarian who performs surgeries at Alabama Spay/Neuter, told the board that she is in charge of all medical decisions at the clinic.
"The focus is always on quality, not quantity," Ferrell said.
The hearing on the proposed rule change was completely one-sided with no one speaking in favor of the change.
Nelson told the board during the hearing that it is the unwanted litters that will suffer if the clinics close.
"They'll end up starving. They'll end up euthanized in shelters," Nelson said.
Addison said there had been "some complaints" about quality and workloads at the clinics which can crank out more than 50 surgeries each day, but she did not know the details.
Nelson said the clinics don't have quality issues and if they did, the board has "all the power"already to shut them down.
Some rule opponents said they thought limiting competition, and not protecting quality of care, was a reason behind the rules.
"This is all about greed," said Tracy Tucker Colvin of Moody. Colvin said she volunteers in dog rescue and uses her own money to get the rescue animals spayed. The single mother said she couldn't do that if she was paying prices at a full-service veterinarian.
Addison said no one on the state board had mentioned competition, but she said she has heard concern from some outside the board.
The clinics, using donated equipment, charitable donations and a one-surgery focus, are able to offer prices far below other veterinary practices in which the owner must buy equipment, pay staff and possibly the student loans they took out to get through vet school.
The prices at Alabama Alliance are $55 for a female cat and $70 for a female dog, compared to more than $200 elsewhere.
But the clinics have disputed that they are competition for veterinarians saying they provide one service out of an animal's lifetime and often help people who otherwise couldn't afford to have their animals spayed and neutered.
As the board debated in downtown Montgomery, 49 cats and dogs were spayed and neutered the same day a few miles away at the Alabama Animal Alliance in Montgomery. The calligraphy above the clinic area entrance reads, "We're fixin' to save lives."
Maggie, an American Bulldog, was still a little groggy from anesthesia after her spay surgery. Owner Jeff Perry said the $80 he paid was much less than what other vets would have charged.
Rebecca Davidson, the veterinarian who performs surgeries at the Montgomery clinic, said the nonprofits do valuable work.
"We see a lot of animals who do not get seen by any other vet. The rabies shot we give is often the first shot that animal has had," Davidson said.
Veterinarians chose their profession to help animals, Davidson said, and she hoped they could work together and not against each other.
"There's plenty of room for them to practice and for me to try to control overpopulation," Davidson said.