A proposed rule change by an Alabama state board that could contribute to pet overpopulation and suffering has raised concern both within the state and nationwide.
The Alabama State Board of Veterinary Examiners is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to consider new rules that could close the four nonprofit spay/neuter clinics that operate across the state. The proposed rules would prohibit non-veterinarians from hiring veterinarians and would prohibit non-veterinarians, including nonprofit groups, from owning veterinary equipment.
Those who want to close the clinics claim they present unfair competition with regular cost spay/neuter services, while those who want them to remain open say that their clients, who pay about $50 at the clinics, would not pay the estimated $300 to $400 at a private practice veterinarian. Alabama sends large numbers of companion animals out of state for adoption and kills over 100,000 surplus pets each year, as many residents still do not spay and neuter their pets, often due to costs.
A request from five Alabama senators could influence the outcome of the board’s decision and keep the state’s four low-cost spay and neuter clinics in operation. Today Sen. Bill Holtzclaw made public the contents of a letter dated Oct. 4 in which he and four other senators asked the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners to refrain from voting on the rule change that threatens the nonprofit spay and neuter clinics. That letter is signed by State Senators Holtzclaw, Marsh, Ward, Blackwell and Fielding.
The state Veterinary Medical Association has also written a letter to the Board asking members to delay action until the legislative session. Additionally, thousands of people have signed petitions against the change.
Also today, the nationally prominent advocacy group Alley Cat Allies issued a news release on the proposal. The release reads as follows:
One-third of Respondents Oppose the Proposed Rules by the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners
BETHESDA, Md., Oct. 9, 2012 — Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats, today reported on answers from a poll of Alabama’s veterinary clinics regarding their support of nonprofit spay/neuter clinics in the state.
The results come just one day before the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is set to vote on a set of rules that would make the state’s nonprofit spay/neuter clinics illegal.
“These nonprofit veterinary clinics provide thousands of low-cost, high-quality spay/neuter surgeries to pets of low-income families and animal rescue groups. Closing these clinics would be a disaster for Alabama,” said Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies.
“The poll results show that there are a number of veterinarians who understand that these clinics are essential in the uphill battle of saving animals’ lives,” said Robinson. “Now we want the people of Alabama to be informed consumers and know whether or not their veterinarian supports low-cost spay/neuter.”
While one-third of respondents oppose the measure and support the nonprofit clinics, just under one-third support the measure, some claiming business competition from nonprofit clinics as their reason. However, Alley Cat Allies’ nonprofit clinic contacts say they provide surgeries for underserved populations who can’t afford it, including low-income families and grassroots animal rescue and feral cat groups.
More troubling, the poll results reveal that many clinics refused to take a stand on the issue: one-third of respondents gave no comment, and the majority of clinics failed to respond to our repeated calls.
On the website, www.SaveAlabamaSpayNeuter.com citizens can find their veterinarian’s response. Citizens are encouraged to call to thank them for opposing the state board’s measure or to ask them to take a stand in support of low-cost spay/neuter for Alabama’s animals.
Photo: Dr. Dawn Tucker at the new low-cost spay neuter clinic in Huntsville, 2010.