MCAS: The Low-Cost Clinic and the Veterinary Establishment

I find myself once again addressing the need for low cost veterinary services in Montgomery County. The Montgomery County Animal Shelter has been offering low cost vaccinations and spay and neuter services to the community. I consider this a good thing!

Apparently many members of the local veterinary community disagree. Several local veterinarians are pressuring the Montgomery County Commissioners to limit what services MCAS can offer. Their rational is that the services offered by the county are cutting into their practices.

Bluntly, I doubt it.

Here are a few facts. In Montgomery County, Texas, the per capita income is $30,909. The average household has 2.94 people. And most importantly, 11.2% of the local population is living below the poverty line. The census data available does not tell us how many people are living just above the poverty line.

Many, many people in the lower income brackets own pets. Poverty does not prevent you from loving animals. And while I agree emphatically that people should not have children or animals they cannot afford to care for, the fact is that they DO.

The demographics convince me that the vast majority of the people served by the veterinary clinic at MCAS would NOT be able to afford services from a traditional veterinarian. MCAS offers spay/neuter services for $40 to $60, in most cases. Traditional veterinary clinics offer spay/neuter services for $140 to $400, depending on the vet, their location and corresponding overhead, and what pre-operative services (such as bloodwork) the client opts to do.

There is a lot of difference between $60 and $400.

Realistically, most people can come up with $40 to $60 for a pet’s care. But I can tell you from personal experience that coming up with several hundred dollars for the same services can be very challenging, even for a middle class professional. Expecting people who earn near the poverty line to do so is just impossible. For some of them, it might literally be half their budget for the month.

My understanding after talking to a couple of local veterinarians is that many local practices are suffering under the burden of the current economy – which, as we all know, is not so hot. So I realize that these vets are scared of losing more income to a low cost clinic.

Unfortunately, many of the local veterinarians have been swayed by a couple of disgruntled vets who have a grudge against MCAS. The rumor mill is running rampant and wrong. Let me clarify a few things.

Yes, MCAS does have some veterinary equipment not necessarily needed for spay and neuter surgeries. That equipment is used in house for foster dogs and dogs still in the shelter. It is not available to the public.

Yes, a few people who could afford “regular” vet clinics may sneak in, but the vast majority of those using county services do so because it’s all they can afford. Otherwise they wouldn’t wait in long lines and schedule months in advance for services; using county services does come with certain inconvenience. And a high percentage of those services goes to MCAS fosters or recently adopted animals.

No, your practice will not go under because of MCAS. The county does not intend to “compete” with local clinicians. They want to provide services that would otherwise not be accessible to their clientele, so that the animals can be properly cared for, which will in turn reduce the number of animals that get taken into MCAS as strays and surrenders. Each clinic might lose a couple of appointments per month, but a huge percentage of those using MCAS services would never set foot in your clinics because they cannot afford your fees. Look at it this way: the availability of the MCAS clinic gives us the opportunity to educate those people about other vet services they might need in the future.

I understand that veterinarians are running a business and have to keep an eye on the bottom line. A few suggestions:

If each vet would offer just 5 low cost spays or neuters each month, it would be an excellent opportunity to attract new clients who have recently adopted a pet. If each vet would offer one day per month for low cost vaccinations, that too would drastically reduce the demand for such services from the county. I’m not suggesting bankrupting yourselves. I’m suggesting that offering such services would build good will and attract clients who would be more likely to return for other services in the future.

But please don’t try to sabotage MCAS’ clinic. The animals of Montgomery County need it – and FYI, the services it provides are NOT taxpayer funded.


  1. Nancy Nelson says

    Shannon this all makes me sick to my stomach. Spending so much of my time and money trying to save animals I have a hard time wrapping my brain around someone who is supposed to be doing the same undermining the very core of animal welfare. The shelter offers these services to fill a void in the county that the local vets never stepped in to fill. For years they had the opportunity to start a low cost clinic and they could have made a killing but no one ever did. The people who use these services do so because they cannot afford the alternatives and would basically do nothing instead which means more disease, more animals, and more over crowding at an already overcrowded shelter. What vet who supposedly cares about animals and has made that his or her profession would be this callous and cold. I have a few ideas but I will keep that to myself for now. As tax payers of Montgomery Co we need to be very vocal in our support of these programs that cost the tax payers nothing and provide a benefit at the shelter that could only be replaced with the county allotting tax dollars. We need to make sure the commissioners realize that these programs are necessary and a service to the residents of Montgomery Co and that because a few vets are upset their profits are down, ( duh a recession and bad economy have nothing to do with that) should not ruin it for all the tax paying, voting residents of the county.

Leave a Reply