Idea of more free spay clinics doesn't sit well with vets

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— The Routt County Humane Society will hold its next reduced-priced spay clinic in February, but recent talk of increasing the number of clinics ruffled the feathers of local veterinarians.

County commissioners "encouraged us to seek out lower-cost spay services. Our local vets were not willing to provide that service," said JoAnn Baker Paul, president of the Routt County Humane Society.

Paul told the commissioners this week that a Denver veterinarian will be coming to help instead.

"That's her choice," said Dr. Sally Palmer with Steamboat Veterinary Hospital. "When they bring in the (Denver) doctor they're holding the clinic at the shelter. He's not paying a staff, property taxes He's not available for follow up."

With the help of city and county funding, the local animal shelter was able to spay or neuter 224 animals during two separate clinics this year. The cost was about $25 to $45, depending on the animal.

Humane Society officials told the county commissioners they wanted to spay or neuter 400 animals a year.

Local veterinarians, however, said enough's enough.

"The first spay day we were off 10 percent" in sales, said Dr. John Rule, a local veterinarian.

Dr. Rule and two other local veterinarians told the commissioners this week that more clinics would hurt their business. The vets say two low-cost clinics should be enough.

"It's something we can live with," Dr. Rule said.

The Humane Society points out that most of the people 69 percent using the clinics have a family income of less than $30,000.

"Our goal is to control the animal population in Routt County and to encourage residents to take greater responsibility for their pets," Paul said. "We don't want to take business away from (local vets)."

After both sides had their turn talking to the commissioners, a compromise was reached.

"The Humane Society will have up to two clinics throughout the year with a maximum of 200 dogs and cats being spayed," said Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak.

Paul said she still wants to use local vets but their prices are too high.

There's a reason, says Dr. Palmer:

"I think the local vets are in a bit of a jam. You don't make a lot of money on those procedures, there's not a lot of room to cut back medically. We feel our prices are what they have to be to meet our overhead."

The local veterinarians also won another concession.

County and city money will only be used on spaying and neutering and special needs of shelter animals.

To reach Frances Hohl call 871-4208 or e-mail fhohl@amigo.net

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