Sunday, July 13, 2008

A cautionary tale

Spent most of Saturday at the Regional board meeting, and part-way through got a call from one of the vets in Ely about a young dog who they thought had swallowed some kind of foreign body.

The owner was on benefits, but had managed to scrape together a hundred pounds to get the dog seen and x-rayed to find what was going on. Now the dog was deteriorating and unlikely to survive without surgery to remove the obstruction. Estimated cost another £600, which the owner simply did not have.

Because so many people don't pay back what they owe, almost no vets will now offer any kind of payment plan. Our branch will normally help with a limited amount towards treatment costs, but we simply cannot put ourselves in a position where anyone can say they're unable to pay and expect us to cover hundreds of pounds; because eventually no-one would pay their own fees and we would collapse.

If the dog had been registered with either our own branch clinic or with the PDSA the dog could have been treated at much lower cost. In the circumstances, the only option was for the owner to sign ownership of the dog over to us, to give him at least a reasonable chance of survival.

Both the RSPCA and the PDSA often get a certain amount of "stick" for being bureaucratic about rules under which we provide veterinary help. We're not just being difficult when this happens. In our case, the reason why we can provide more help for registered animals is our arrangement with the University Vet School. They provide care for animals at a much lower charge to us per treatment than a private vet could survive on and, in return, their students get the learning experience of a variety of cases.

The students get maximum benefit from our cases when they come via our clinic at the pre-arranged sessions which mean they fit into the students' busy timetable. Registration of an animal means a student will have had the chance to examine that animal when he or she isn't in a critical condition and the student can practice handling; examining teeth; taking temperature etc. Because of this, the Vet School will only see registered animals outside normal surgery hours.

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