Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Profitability of Drive-Thru Euthanasia Clinics

Let me be perfectly clear; I am happy to talk to you about your pet because I am here to help your pet. But, let me also be perfectly clear that my job is to take care of your pet and be their advocate.

Except for the rare cases of human health safety, I am your pets healthcare advisor, I am not yours. So, if you are seeking get rid of your pet to unleash some burden due to the difficulty they cause you find a psychiatrist. I am not a psychiatrist. I am a veterinarian.

If you want to dispose of your pet, for whatever reason, find a lynch man. I am not a lynch man. I went to vet school with the hopes and expectations of helping pets.

I do not run a drive thru euthanasia clinic. I do not get up in the morning to try to find a way to earn a quick buck or bond with my fellow man. I get up to help the defenseless, powerless, voiceless souls live to see another day. This is a conscious choice to make a life without a voice better. I am not here to make your life more convenient.

Yes, it is true, this veterinarian sometimes detests people. Hard as I try, I do. Sure, I could choose to abandon my calling and my purpose to cash your check, but I must always choose an option that benefits your pet, not you.

Such is how I feel when there are days like today....

Two clients stand in the clinic, pets in tow, demanding euthanasia as their “God Given Right.” As if my veterinary services, my profession, and yes, my establishment are at their beckoned pet disposal call. After all, why would anyone else care about a pet that they don't want? And yet there is me, the vet on the other end of the euthanasia syringe, stuck between that chasm of being the killer of your pet and the murderer of my own soul. Which would you choose?

I don’t go to work every day to be demanded that I sacrifice who I strive to be, worked hard to become, and who I can live with being, for a pet to stand before me alive, treatable, and trying to survive while a client spews some indignation self-proclaimed power to decide who lives and who dies. It just doesn't work that way.

There are many alongside me who have lost their voice. Lost or suppressed their conscious compassionate voice and made a decision to cash a check, kill a pet, and not make a ripple in the pond. There are many a vet who care far more about whether you like them and therefore are willing to provide almost any service to what society deems "a piece of property". We are all stuck until the public asks for their service dog, war hero, and life line to get a title worth their love and devotion. I know and understand the reality of the world I live in and the pathetic state most other species fight to survive in. I also own my own veterinary clinic. I have an obligation to keep my employees employed. If I piss off too many clients I can no longer provide a paycheck for them. I also understand that they don't come to work to hold down a fearful struggling pet to be killed either. It is a difficult awful choice.

And so it was again, another client, with another treatable and trying to survive pet and their a apparent lack of caring about the situation their own pet was in.

I suppose the dilemma is that I see these patients as treatable, or in the least, manageable. Whereas their own guardians see them as finished. There are defined diseases and treatment options and it is hard for me to accept that people don't want to try to make their pets feel better.

Showing up at the clinic with your pet after being absent from care for years and telling me that they need to put their pet down because they are,, "old",, "sick" ,, "struggling",, whatever, without any mention of even trying to help them is heartbreaking and difficult to accept.

Tonight there was a woman who sat before me with a cat we had not seen in years. That cat sat there on the exam table looking up at me bright, responsive, and on high alert, (as all cats are at the clinic when they only go once every five years). She sobbed incoherently about “the cat urinating in the house and the weight of this decision and her inability to know what to do?” It is a dance where you sit, listen, try to understand and are still left not knowing whether to lead or follow. It is a dance of trying to pick details from a history you have no access to and a story that is being written before you. It is a nightmare that haunts you and the reason you do not sleep. It is the cause of your skeletons and a closet that you can no longer close. I agree with her that her cat needs help, and that I am happy to help. But, I have an obligation to inform clients of their options, to stay true to my belief that I am the advocate for this pet, and consent must be found on where to go from here. This act of finality has to be CONSENTUAL... There is a legal consent form that both parties have to agree upon. But she, of course (as is so common with these cases), "loves her pet" but doesn’t want to pay for an examination, or any diagnostics. Because, after all, her cat is "peeing in the house." She remains clear on the financial aspect of her decision. She will not pay for anything. She also remains hysterical and incoherent when it comes to signing a euthanasia consent form. I have to remind her that she must be clear in what she wants and that I cannot go back and revive her dead cat if she changes her mind. She needs a psychiatrist and her cat needs a vet.

Enter flabbergasted husband who knows clearly that he wants this cat euthanized. My life is further complicated by the fact that my new staff member has allowed him to pay for this service already. Oh, yes, of course, I am booked all night and 45 minutes behind. I have always liked pets more than people, and too often, I down right hate people. Animals are rational and predictable. Who in the world thinks that a walk-in euthanasia is any way to end a lifetime with your pet? I need a new policy that says “all euthanasia’s must be authorized before being scheduled.”

In the end, and there is always an end, I can sleep at night if you do not like me. I cannot however sleep at night if your cat doesn't.

I don't know how many veterinary clinics provide euthanasia's to anyone who books the appointment and pays the bill? I also don't know why we care so much about whether our clients like us? I don't believe that being compliant to every demand is a successful way to run a practice or live your life. If your patients don't have a voice and you aren't a voice for them then where were you when you were reciting the veterinarians oath?

If you choose to walk the easy path you may get richer and you may avoid the land mines of the State Board who only cares if the public is happy,, but you will be left as a shell of the champion you were intended to become.

I used to believe that veterinary medicine was about working hard to make a difference and that after I had accomplished this I could earn a decent living. Four years into practicing I realized that I only had to keep myself from growing indifferent. I had to hold sacred my creed of still wanting to get emotionally involved even if it meant I cared more than the owner did. To tread in those treacherous waters of trying to stay true to the 12 year old veterinarian I always dreamed of being.

Now, I realize that all I have to do is get out alive, and that hating people won’t help.

Your pet’s life is not about you. And my job is not about you either. Humans are the enemy to every other species free will. And, lastly, to every single person who thinks that euthanasia is a treatment option I ask "who they think they are treating?"

I am a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

If you are a veterinarian just trying to make people happy your title should read 'Doctor of Psychiatry', and, I have a former client, or two, I am happy to send along your way.

Related Blogs;

Compassion Fatigue. When the candle you are burning at both ends consumes you.

The Pieces of Me

Working and Living in the Land of Liability

Taking A Stand and Facing Consequences

There Has To Be Mercy Before Money

What Are You Building? My Advice For Vet Practice Ownership and the Women Who Lead Them

Photos; A few of the 19 kittens and 18 adults that the staff, clients, and friends of Jarrettsville Veterinary Center worked together to save this year. With thanks to all who support the JVC Good Samaritan Fund. JVC is a place where lives are spared, saved, and protected.

Along with my animal advocacy and welfare work, I can be found at Pawbly.com. Pawbly was founded on the belief that together we can solve any and every pet problem and build a place where every pet person can become educated, inspired and empowered to help every pet live a longer, fuller, and happier life. Pawbly is free to use and open to anyone who cares about animals.

I am also on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.


  1. Excellent piece. My vet, who is a woman and a wonderful human being, is always overbooked and rushed, but tries as hard as she can take time with her patients and clients. I truly admire her and others of the veterinary profession.

    1. Thanks for reading.. and tell your vet I said "hello!" We never get enough "hellos" and "thank you's" in this lifetime, do we?

  2. Replies
    1. Speaking of the value of all life...VetVoyeur I visited your site and your photographs are stunning. Amazing. Miraculous. What a treat to view them all. I can't for the life of me figure out how you capture these images so close up and in such detail. Then again, I know nothing about photography. And in the end, it doesn't matter. However you get them, they are beautiful and a gift to anyone who comes across your site. Thank you.

  3. Wow. Very powerful. And I don't get it either. I just posted a story about an older couple who runs a horse rescue. When one of their miniature mares gave birth, she accidentally stepped on her baby's foot. The resulting injury led to a life-threatening infection, and the foal needed to be a)euthanized or b) have its leg amputated, and then be cared for somehow. This older couple decided "we have to TRY, because everything deserves a chance in life." Everyone involved with this story approached the situation with the attitude of "we have to try," instead of "it's too hard, it can't be done, it isn't worth it." And how you can decide that your lifelong pet isn't worth saving because they are "peeing all over the house"? I don't get it and never will.

    1. I don't get it either. I do however believe that nothing of real value is ever earned or acquired by seeking the easy path.Thank you for everything that you do everyday.

  4. I agree that it shouldn't be a treatment option for everything. But those owners sure are above the ones who dump their unwanted pets on the street because they are too chicken shit or cheap to schedule a euthanasia visit. Bonus points if it's a declawed cat who is going to magically adapt and be a successful feral kitty. Or the ones who dump at high kill shelters so their dog can be terrified for days of stray hold before the trip to that rainbow bridge. People are evil. Sometimes euthanasia is the kindest thing people can do if they don't have money for treatment.

    1. I agree that treatment options are a list of options to help the pet, and that yes, sometimes ending suffering is a way to help a pet. I do however argue the point of money being a reason to influence most decisions. I prefer the try anything else before choosing that option. Here's where the talk meets the walk. I refuse (yes refuse) to euthanize a pyo without trying to save the pet, yes I do occasionally get burned on the surgery fees, which is why I have a Good Samaritan Fund I can use if needed at the clinic. I also refuse to euthanize over a broken bone, (tragic poor prognosis head and spinal trauma excluded), and I do not euthanize for litter box, thyroid, or endocrine diseases without trying (or offering) everything else first. Cost is not ever the reason I treat with euthanasia. I doubt any of us entered vet medicine to get rich, and although I do not run the practice like a business at all costs and measures I believe I am building a practice with devoted clients and patients who see the clinic as a sanctuary not a pit stop.
      I also agree that there are people out there who are chicken shits (my new fav tag) who dump and run. I cannot change them, but I can offer assistance to every single client who comes to me asking for it. I also keep good strong mutually beneficial ties open with our local rescues. They know I will help any pet they bring to me, and I don't get these pets dumped on me and present the clinic as a charity in the process.
      My whole lifes work is to challenge the notion of "no money" for treatment. Lofty, ridiculous, and naive, well? maybe? maybe not?
      Above all nothing should ever suffer. That's why we do what we do after all. That is the oath we take

    2. Just know you are not alone in your pursuit of what some may deem "lofty, ridiculous, and naive" -- I'm right there with you!!!

  5. Thanks for such a great post.

  6. This is a great article! As a pre-vet student and a pet owner I really appreciate you writing this! maybe this will help some people realize that they are not thinking about their animal at all only themselves.