I never really paid attention to the rescue efforts that some veterinary offices make until I adopted a kitten who had been rescued and adopted out by my vet’s office. Prior to this situation, I was aware that some vet offices I’d visited had an occasional cat who lived on the premises. But I never thought about the fact that veterinarians, in some cases, take in abandoned or abused animals and adopt them to new homes. In my rural area, where rescue organizations or humane societies are far flung, there are veterinarians who are quietly practicing rescue and saving animals that would otherwise suffer or die.
I was curious about how veterinarians absorb this added, and probably unplanned, cost to their businesses. Does a veterinary business really have the means, funds, and flexibility to rescue and rehabilitate animals in the hope that they’ll be able to adopt these animals to good homes?
In my own experience, I wasn’t looking for a kitten when my vet’s staff happened to mention that they had a kitten for adoption in their holding area. The staff asked me if I would help spread the word and I did, on Facebook and through my email list. The kitten was vetted and up to date on her shots. She had been abandoned in a nearby small town, and surrendered to the clinic by that town’s police. Jamie Bluebell, the kitten, got the run of the clinic at lunchtime, when the clinic closes for about an hour and a half. She got a lot of love and attention. I ended up adopting her (surprise!) and she has turned into a beautiful, funny, and very sweet adult.
Still, I wondered how veterinary practices absorb the added cost and time of these informal rescue/adoption/placement operations. So I spoke with two local veterinary offices to find out more.
Beth Chapman, vet tech at Vermilion Veterinary Clinic, in Cook, MN, said that while the clinic has no formal plan for strays, they certainly act. “I think it’s just something that goes with the territory, and we do as much as possible,” she said. Vermilion Vet Clinic works with quite a few shelters in the area to provide spaying and neutering for animals who are up for adoption. In return, the shelters are often able to step in and reciprocate if the clinic has an animal that needs help.
“We save older or outdated meds that are still good, and use these for non-owned animals,” Beth said. “The staff all kicks in and helps find homes or cover medical costs.”
Unless the animal is too aggressive, too ill, or non-adoptable, the staff does its best to find the animal a good home. And usually, efforts pay off and the animal is successfully adopted.
Beth did mention that in our local area, if a stray is reported and you call the non-emergency 911 and get a case number, our regional Humane Society is required to take the animal. This may be true in other areas as well, and worth checking into.
I also spoke with Chip Hansen, DVM, of the Ely Vet Clinic in Ely, MN. They recently rehabilitated and adopted (to a friend of mine) a beautiful black female cat who had been abandoned in a dumpster in winter, starved, and lost part of her tail. Currently the clinic is rehabilitating a rescued and abused dog who weighs 30 pounds and would normally be a 60-pound dog.
Dr. Hansen told me that he doesn’t normally track what any of this costs or keep the money in a separate pile. It’s just part of what the clinic does, much like the wildlife rehabilitation that the clinic does (and isn’t necessarily ever paid for). Dr. Hansen pointed out that in any veterinary case, the doctors’ and staff’s “time and efforts and knowledge make up a big percentage of our cash input.”
A few generous people in the community occasionally step forward and donate a few hundred dollars to the clinic. It might amount at most to $400 to $500 per year, and it comes nowhere near covering the cost of rescue or rehabilitation, but everything helps. The clinic charges an adoption fee, which helps offset the cost of meds, food, and staff time and expertise.
The Ely Vet Clinic has also been known to help well-intentioned customers in need. Dr. Hansen told of a young couple who brought their young dog in. The dog had an intestinal obstruction and the couple, who were not able to afford the surgery, made the decision to put the dog down. Impressed with the customers’ ability to make a difficult decision and honestly consider their financial constraints, Dr. Chip and the clinic decided to provide the surgery free of charge so that the dog could live. Dr. Chip is less leery of customers like this and more concerned with those who claim that “money is no object” — and who never pay. Obviously, there’s much to consider when trying to manage the income, expenses, and cash flow at a veterinary practice.
In a rural area where the closest humane society might be 40 or more miles away, and might not even service some small towns, these vets are truly offering a community service. Any vet that’s able to do this is giving the community a great service, whether the vet is located in a sparse rural area or an urban center. Vets and veterinary staff are part of the amazingly good people working for the welfare of cats and all animals.
Does your vet do rescue, adoption, or placement? Have you adopted a surrendered cat who was taken in by your vet? Tell your stories in the comments.
Read stories of rescue on Catster:
About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of a short story collection about people and place. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.