Sunday, January 1, 2012

Emergency Care Centers - Keeping our pets healthy and safe or abusing our furry loved ones?

After experiencing a rather horrible day at a regional emergency care veterinarian's office, I've been thinking about how our pets have no guaranteed quality emergency care options. While most local veterinarians are good doctors, they are not usually available for after hours or holiday care. And when the vets are closed, we have to turn to urgent care centers that seem to have little in mind, other than charging triple and even quadruple fees. 

Why aren't there better options for our beloved pets? No pet owner should ever have to make their pet suffer and die painfully because they can't afford the entire cost of treatment that day. These centers will make no payment arrangements - such as a percentage now, a percentage later. Nor will they consider knocking off a few dollars to save a pets life. They will point you to a credit company who, if approved, charges to the tune of 30% interest. But a lot of people in this economy, don't get approved.

Physician's take the Hippocratic oath. Hospitals generally guarantee emergency care treatment even to those who can pay nothing. But when it comes to our pets, it seems Veterinarian's have no responsibility. We are given no options - pay upfront in cash or watch your furry family member die in agony. And when you cannot pay 100% of the bill, they tell you that there is nothing they can or will do for your pet.  It seems to me this is a form of extortion bordering animal abuse. 

Today's animal advocacy organizations (such as spay and neuter and adoption agencies) should also work towards better and more cost-effective urgent care for our pets. While it's understood medicine costs money, there is very little reason these centers cannot work payment arrangements for a pet who without care, will die. But they won't. And those pet owners must walk away with their suffering pet in hand and watch them die in a cruel and heartless way. 

That is just so wrong.
anecdote: Our cat Morris had a urinary obstruction - which is fatal within 12-24 hours. We were told that it would cost nearly $2000 for treatment, payable immediately less than one week after Christmas. When I tried to explain we didn't have that much cash on hand, I was told "You need to pay for the procedure or he will die a painful and horrible death." They refused to work out any payment arrangements. They told me I had to "decide" what I wanted to do. But there were no choices given as we simply didn't have that kind of money available. In the end, they agreed to do an outpatient treatment for nearly $500. But they were very sure to tell me multiple times that this would probably not save his life. He is still kicking today. I'm hopeful he will recover albeit touch and go. But I will never ever forget the horrible way I and my beloved, Morris, were treated that day.

1-2-2012 Update - Morris is doing pretty well today. Going to his regular vet for some REAL care at 3:15 EST. Will keep you posted.

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