What veterinarians need to know about high-volume spay/neuter clinics (Proceedings)
There is a homeless pet crisis in the United State that is a direct result of animals left unaltered in our communities. ASPCA and HSUS estimates are that 6-8 million animals are placed in shelters each year and of these 3 – 4 are euthanized. That equates to one animal euthanized every 2 seconds every working day each year. There are no reliable estimates of the number of stray dogs and feral cats that are killed on highways, die of disease or die of starvation each year. This paper deals with the need for high volume spay neuter clinics, the standards that those clinics are held to, and the relationships between high volume spay neuter clinics and private practitioners.
Many people view the overpopulation of unwanted dogs and cats as simply an emotional issue, and it is emotional. But it is much more as well. Stray dogs and feral cats are a public health hazard: the spread of zoonotic diseases to people, bite wounds, highway accidents are all concerns. Stray dogs and feral cats are a risk to the health of owned animals as well. The serve as reservoirs for heartworms, internal and external parasites, and may cause the spread of viral diseases such as FeLV and FIV.
As veterinarians we take an oath. "...I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of livestock resources, the promotion of public health..." Notice the key words, protect animal health, relieve animal suffering, promote public health. High volume spay neuter clinics contribute to all three of these. The missions of spay neuter clinics are to promote public heath, to relieve animal suffering; to stop the killing.The objective of high volume spay neuter clinics is to end overpopulation of unwanted dogs and cats by providing high quality, high volume, affordable sterilization services for companion animals. They do this by providing spay neuter services to shelters, those that can't pay, and those that won't pay.
There are there major points to communicate. There is a misconception that high volume or low cost clinics must sacrifice quality, but that is not true. In fact, often the reverse is true. High volume can lead to high quality. Spay neuter programs now have published guidelines which promote quality. Contrary to those that view these clinics as a threat, high quality high volume spay neuter programs can actually benefit the private practitioner. We will address all three of these points in more detail.
High Volume Leads to High Quality
High volume clinic develop very efficient systems. Most veterinary practices are not designed for efficient spay neuter as they perform hundreds, if not thousands, of different things. High volume spay neuter clinics do two things, spay and neuter, and can direct every aspect of the clinic towards those two procedures. Although the mission is to sterilize as many animals as possible, spays and neuters are still elective procedures. If it is in the best interest to have the surgery postponed, then arrangements are made to do so. The health of the individual animal is always the highest priority.
Spay Neuter Guidelines
In fall of 2006 a group of 22 veterinarians representing all aspects of the spay neuter movement were convened as the national spay neuter task force. The group consisted of board certified specialists in surgery, anesthesiology, internal medicine, and critical care, as well as high volume spay neuter veterinarians from many different programs across the United States. One of the products of this task force is "The Association of Shelter Veterinarians veterinary medical care guidelines for spay-neuter programs." The guidelines are based upon accepted principles in anesthesiology, critical care medicine, microbiology and surgical asepsis and technique. The guidelines are intended as achievable in all programs that practice high volume spay neuter. They were divided into four section: preoperative, anesthetic, surgical and postoperative. This paper will only hit the highlights, but the full reference is available at the ASV website: http://www.sheltervets.org/.