Alabama Vets to End Low-Cost Spay/Neuter?

“Analysis of Maddie’s Fund program results show that low-cost spay/neuter programs are effective at raising total community spay/neuter levels (i.e., they do not merely cause substitution in source of spay/neuter procedures).”
— Joshua M. Frank and Pamela L. Carlisle-Frank, Ecological Economics (2007)

Later today, the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is scheduled, as veterinarian Eric R. Lewis, Communications Officer for the Alabama Veterinary Practice Owners Association, put it in a recent e-mail alert, “to clarify the definitions of what a practice owner is in the state.” Which probably sounds like nothing more than a little housekeeping for the board, right?

In fact, the decision may well shut down the four low-cost non-profit spay/neuter clinics in the state.* Worse, it may set a disastrous precedent for other states.

So, what’s going on in Alabama?

I haven’t looked into this closely, but this appears to be another attempt by some in the veterinary community to eliminate competition. Echoes of Hillsborough County, FL, in other words. In Alabama, though, they’re trying a different red herring: “concern” for the care of the animals.

As I understand it, ALVPOA wants to define practice owner in such a way that only veterinarians can be considered practice owners under the law. The non-profits operating the low-cost spay/neuter clinics would, as a result, be out of business. As Lewis explains in his e-mail:

“The state laws were crafted in such a way as to protect the animals in this state from inhumane procedural activities that are necessary to provide the volume of procedures that these non-profit spay/neuter agencies require in order to remain viable. If these clinics are allowed to practice in this manner, they will be in violation of the law, subject to the penalties proscribed with in it, and will be perpetrating cruelty on the very animals they claim they are protecting.”

And if these clinics are shut down—then what? It’s difficult to imagine their clients being able to spend a hundreds more for each pet (or feral cat) they want sterilized. Difficult, too, to believe that this has nothing to do with fear of competition (real or perceived).

What’s not difficult to imagine is the result of the proposed move: more puppies and kittens—many of which will be killed, of course. (According to Alley Cat Allies, Alabama’s low-cost spay/neuter clinics have sterilized nearly 100,000 animals since 2007.)

The backlash was swift and considerable. Lewis’ response was swift and… well, unsettling:

“The individuals and collective agencies behind these assaults, whether through well meaning, but misguided intentions, or by their own avarice and greed, pose a serious threat to our profession and to the animals in this state. The only ones who are standing to protect them are the veterinarians.”

Over the past several days, Alley Cat Allies has contacted hundred of Alabama’s veterinarians and compiled a list documenting those who want to save the clinics (26.6 percent), those who want to close the clinics (31.7 percent), and those who either could not be reached or would not comment on the issue (41.7 percent). In addition, ACA created an online petition, making it easy to show your support for the low-cost spay/neuter clinics.

I encourage Vox Felina readers to sign the petition, and to contact the offices of the governor and senate president as well:

Governor Robert Bentley: 334-242-7100
Senate President Del Marsh: 334-242-7800

And of course to spread the word—this could have consequences far beyond Alabama.

* Yes, just four—in a state of 4.8 million people, 17.1 percent of whom live below the poverty level.

Literature Cited
1. Frank, J.M. and Carlisle-Frank, P.L., “Analysis of programs to reduce overpopulation of companion animals: Do adoption and low-cost spay/neuter programs merely cause substitution of sources?” Ecological Economics. 2007. 62(3–4): p. 740–746.


In the News