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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Veterinarians and "Doing the Right Thing"

OK. I have learned something new about myself: I'm not a very faithful blogger! No one wants to hear my excuses, so I'll move right on to my current topic, "Doing the Right Thing."

Being a veterinarian is incredibly rewarding in many ways. It really feels like a privilege to have this job. I have always felt that it also carries an obligation to "give back" to pets who need help that have no way of getting it without the assistance of a compassionate veterinarian and veterinary team. I enjoy this aspect of my profession as well. It feels good to provide assistance to sick/injured animals who are so trusting of us.

About a year ago, we were brought a very unhealthy puppy who had been found abandoned in a garbage can. My associate, Dr Chris Randla, treated his injuries and oversaw his care as he recovered. The story gained widespread recognition, and a children's book, "Tommy The Throwaway Dog" has been published to tell the story. Around the time the author, Laura Marlowe, came to our area for a book signing (Tommy was there too), we had a similar situation brought to us.

A dog was found in a rural part of our county, staggering along a fence row with an arrow all the way through his abdomen. His owner was located through a microchip, but she didn't want the dog back. Hope Rescues took him and brought him to us for emergency surgery. His spleen and part of his small intestine were removed by Dr Wendy Mollet, and he was treated for peritonitis. He now lives with a physician in a fancy St Louis suburb.

We work closely with several humane organizations to help dogs and cats in trouble. In my opinion, the humane organizations (Partners 4 Pets, Metro-East Humane Society, Hope Rescues, APA) do the hard work of caring for these animals day-in and day-out. The least we can do is lend medical advice and treatment. The humane organizations do get charged for our services, but at a deep discount. We cheerfully lose money on these cases. In addition to this, each doctor at our hospital has a $1,000 Client-Assistance account to help pay medical expenses for pets whose owners show a sincere desire to treat them, but cannot afford all that is needed. The client assistance money is provided by our hospital.

Now, it sometimes gets ugly when someone we've never seen before has a pet that has probably never seen a veterinarian, and now it is sick. Or injured. The person usually comes rushing in demanding treatment. We tend to be less sympathetic in these cases, and immediately we are called "heartless" and "in it for the money." My opinion is that this is a person who never saw to the care of her pet until disaster struck, and now feels it should be our problem. I usually recommend the owner turn the pet over to a humane organization who we WILL work with to help. It may sound "snooty," but I truly feel that pet ownership is a big responsibility, and an irresponsible pet owner does the pet a disservice.

In the meantime, we'll keep trying to "do the right thing."

And I'll try to be a better blogger.

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