Had a call to our helpline yesterday which left me feeling exasperated and upset in more or less equal measure. The person concerned clearly did love animals but also had some issues which meant she wasn't really capable of looking after them properly. She'd "rescued" three rabbits from someone else who'd been threatening to kill them by wringing their necks, but couldn't afford the cost of vaccination at her local vet and didn't have transport to get them to our clinic from the remote village where she lived.One rabbit had already had to be put to sleep because he had myxomatosis and now a second was showing the same symptoms but the vet wouldn't see her because the owner hadn't yet paid off the debt for treating the first one.
In any case, because it was Saturday afternoon, the surgery she could reach on foot was closed and being covered from their other one in Cambridge which would have cost her £100 for an out of hours consultation and in any case wasn't accessible because she had no transport and no money for a taxi.
Our fantastic inspector offered to go out to the rabbit as she clearly needed to be put to sleep to end her suffering but the owner called back about twenty minutes later to say the bunny had died.
I've offered to cover the cost of getting the surviving rabbit vaccinated at the private vet, which is trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted but will give him a chance if he's not already incubating the disease.
We can't offer to pay off her existing debt, both because we can't afford it and because it would risk opening the floodgates to everyone who hasn't budgeted for their pets becoming sick.
The problem of vet treatment costs isn't straightforward. The only way we could provide anything like an NHS for animals would be if virtually every animal lover in England and Wales joined us and helped raise funds to do it. We can't simply wash our hands of it and say it's the owner's responsibility and that's it because there are too many people with animal who really are not capable of making the hard decisions needed to ensure they only have the pets they can afford to care for properly. On top of that there are the good owners who lose their jobs, have accidents themselves or take on uninsurable animals with existing medical problems.