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Shelter Crosses Line, Some Vets Contend

By Jessica Tremayne

Stanislaus County, Calif., is laying claim to the nation’s first private veterinary practice and government alliance, a project that some veterinarians see as unfair competition in the world of low-cost spay/neuter clinics.

The county has one of the highest euthanasia rates in the nation, with a 35-year-old shelter that was built to house 200 animals but accommodates more than 400 on an average day.

Dr. Kwane Stewart oversees the Stanislaus County animal shelter in Central California. Photo courtesy of Dr. Kwane Stewart.
Of the 21,000 animals taken to the Stanislaus County Department of Animal Services from June 2008 through June 2009, 14,357 were euthanized. This rate, 68 percent, was emotionally draining for the 30 staff members and cost taxpayers $1.7 million.

“We euthanize 80 to 90 animals a day in peak season,” says Kwane Stewart, DVM, the Stanislaus County veterinarian.

The euthanasia rate caused public outcry for years, but 2009 was the year the county Board of Supervisors folded to the community’s request.

The board approved an $8.7 million, 33,360-square-foot facility, a fully equipped hospital and housing for 567 animals.

The new facility, set to open in December 2010, is “a leap in the right direction,” Dr. Stewart said, adding, “But more space alone wouldn’t get to the root of the problem, which is too many animals reproducing.”

Stewart and two local veterinarians pushed for a spay/ neuter program to be attached to the new shelter. The program would assist clients who might not have the financial means to choose an elective procedure such as a gonadectomy.

“Initially the program was going to operate through the newly built shelter, but the plan drew negative attention from an unlikely source: local veterinarians,” Stewart says. “We presented our spay and neuter plan to local practitioners, then a few days later we started hearing protests.

“I couldn’t believe veterinarians aware of the thousands of animals dying every day in our county could be against an effort to resolve the issue.”

Stewart says that while some veterinarians were concerned with how a low-cost clinic would affect their clinics’ revenue, others feared that the clinic could evolve into providing vaccines and flea control. 

Sean Fitzpatrick, DVM, and his partner, practice owner Sue Enz, RVT, spoke out publicly against the proposed sterilization program, saying the government was encroaching on their territory.

“My concern is that taxpayers’ money is being used to compete with private business,” says Enz, the owner of Village Oak Veterinary Hospital and three other veterinary facilities. “There is nothing the government can do better than private industry, and this is a veterinary industry concern.”

Stanislaus County euthanized 14,357 animals in one 12-month period. Photo courtesy of Dr. Kwane Stewart.
Enz says she and the veterinarians opposed to the sterilization clinic wouldn’t have minded the Humane Society’s coming to perform low-cost sterilizations, but they cannot get on board with the clinic, even with the changes made to the plan.

In its final format, the sterilization clinic will be inside the new shelter, but it will have an external entrance, will not house any shelter animals and will not perform spays or castrations on shelter animals.

The shelter will have a second hospital strictly for adoption animals and staffed by Stewart and current staff members. The sterilization clinic will be run by two private practitioners who each operate a veterinary hospital.

“The clinic’s equipment, estimated to cost upward of $150,000, will be financed by myself and Dr. Craig Brooks,” says Michael O’Brien, DVM, of Maze Animal Hospital in Modesto. “The government will provide the facility free of charge for the non-profit clinic.”

Dr. O’Brien noted that local efforts have tried to address the overpopulation problem but have had limited effect.

“There used to be as many as 25,000 admissions into the shelter every year, so the pro-bono cases that local vets have performed in their clinic and Project X have had some impact,” O’Brien says.

Project X is a spay/neuter program initiated by local veterinarians that offers reduced-cost procedures at 12 animal hospitals.

Enz, whose hospitals participate in Project X, says 4,000 animals were altered through the program since June 2009.

“I could charge a lot less for a spay or neuter, too, if I didn’t have to pay for a building to operate out of,” Enz says, referring to the new nonprofit clinic.

“The overpopulation issue is a national problem, not just a local one,” she says. “I have to show that I’m making a profit every year, and this new clinic will not have to, which isn’t fair. I am basically going to pay through my tax dollars for this clinic to do the job my veterinarians should be doing.”

O’Brien, owner of Maze Animal Hospital, is building a $5 million clinic to expand his current practice and says he has no concerns that the clients of the 501(k) not-for-profit spay/neuter clinic will reduce his revenue. He said 70 percent of the shelter’s clients likely never had their pet treated by a veterinarian.

Cats await adoption—or euthanasia—at the Stanislaus County, Calif., animal shelter. Photo courtesy of Dr. Kwane Stewart.
“It is a major embarrassment to the industry that veterinarians would protest a program like this publicly,” O’Brien says.

“You don’t hear about MDs speaking against other doctors contributing to a government program for mentally challenged people or dentists complaining about free dental care for children. This way of thought keeps rural communities small-minded.”

Stewart says that by reducing the local animal population through sterilization, hundreds of thousands of dollars used just to euthanize animals will be saved.

He predicts that more low-income communities and those affected by the recession will find ways to reduce their animal population by following this example.

“My hope is that our government and private practice collaboration will serve as a blueprint for similar programs across the country,” Stewart says. “This could be the solution to establishing low-cost spay and neuter programs in other communities saturated with homeless animals, facing euthanasia.” <HOME>

This article first appeared in the January 2010 issue of Veterinary Practice News

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Shelter Crosses Line, Some Vets Contend

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Reader Comments

FACT: Trap & Kill failed because cats cannot be trapped faster than they exponentially breed out of control.

FACT: Trap, Neuter, & Release (TNR) is an even bigger abject failure because these man-made ecological disasters cannot be trapped faster than they exponentially breed out of control, and they also continue the cruelly annihilate all native wildlife (from the smallest of prey up to the top predators that are starved to death), and the cats continue to spread many deadly diseases that they carry today -- FOR WHICH THERE ARE NO VACCINES AGAINST THEM. Many of which are even listed as bioterrorism agents. (Such as Tularemia and The Plague -- Yes, people have already died from cat-transmitted plague in the USA. No fleas nor rats even required. The cats themselves carry and transmit the plague all on their own.)

FACT: THERE IS ABSOLUTELY _NOTHING_ HUMANE ABOUT TNR. Nearly every last TNR'ed cat dies an inhumane death by road-kill, from cat and animal attacks, environmental poisons, starvation, dehydration, freezing to death, infections, parasites, etc. And if very very lucky humanely shot to death or re-trapped and drowned (the two most common methods employed on all farms and ranches to protect their gestating livestock's offspring and valuable native wildlife dying from cats' Toxoplasmosis parasites). This doesn't begin to count the thousands of defenseless native animals that cats skin alive and disembowel alive for their daily and hourly play-toys. The only difference in destroying cats immediately and humanely instead of trapping, sterilizing, then releasing them to an inhumane death; is that money isn't going into an HSUS or SPCA board-member's pocket, veterinarian's pocket, cat-food company CEO's pocket, or a drug-company CEO's pocket. And that's the ONLY difference!

FACT: Cats are a man-made (through selective breeding) invasive species. And as such, are no less of a man-made environmental disaster than any other caused by man. Cats are even worse than an oil-spill of continent-sized proportions. They not only kill off rare and endangered marine-mammals along all coastlines from run-off carrying cats' Toxoplasma gondii parasites, they destroy the complete food-chain in every ecosystem where cats are found. From smallest of prey gutted and skinned alive for cats' tortured play-toys, up to the top predators that are starved to death from cats destroying their ONLY food sources. (Precisely what cats caused on my own land not long ago.)
Woodsman, Corvallis, MT
Posted: 11/11/2012 7:32:27 PM
FACT: Hunted To Extinction (or in this case, extirpation of all outdoor cats) is the ONLY method that is faster than a species like cats can exponentially out-breed and out-adapt to. Especially a man-made invasive species like these cats that can breed 2-4X's faster than any naturally occurring cat-species.

FACT: In _TWELVE_YEARS_ Alley Cat ALL-LIES of NYC have only reduced feral cats in their own city by 0.08% to 0.024% (as the months go on that percentage becomes more insignificant), allowing more than 99.92% to 99.976% to exponentially breed out of control. Here's how Alley-Cat-ALL-LIES' deceptive math works: If you TNR 4 cats and 3 get flattened by cars this translates to 75% fewer feral-cats everywhere. Alley Cat ALL-LIES can't even reduce cats in their own city, yet they promote it as a worldwide solution. Then even bigger fools fall for it and promote it.

FACT: When researching over 100 of the most "successful" TNR programs worldwide, JUST ONE trapped more than 0.4%. Oregon's 50,000 TNR'ed cats (the highest rate I found) is 4.9% of all ferals in their state. Yet, by applying population growth calculus on the unsterilized 95.1% they will have trapped only 0.35% of all cats in their state sometime this year. Less than 0.4% is a far cry from the required 80%-90% to be the least bit effective.

FACT: Their mythical "vacuum effect" is a 100% LIE. A study done by the Texas A&M University proved that any perceived "vacuum" is just the simple case that CATS ATTRACT CATS. Get rid of them all and there's no cats there to attract more. I proved this myself by shooting and burying hundreds of them on my own land. ZERO cats replaced them FOR OVER 2 YEARS NOW. If you want more cats, keep even one of them around, more will find you. That university study also found that sterilized cats very poorly defend any territory. Non-sterilized cats, being more aggressive, take over the sterilized cats' resources (shelter & food if any). If there is any kind of "vacuum effect" at all, it is that sterilizing cats cause non-sterilized cats to restore the reproductive void.

FACT: During all this investigation I have discovered something that is unfaltering without fail. Something that you can bet your very life on and win every last time. That being -- IF A TNR CAT-HOARDER IS TALKING THEN THEY ARE LYING. 100% guaranteed!
Woodsman, Corvallis, MT
Posted: 11/11/2012 7:31:20 PM
This psychotic and delusional "No-Kill" religion (conceived of, based on, and fueled by their own relentless fear of death) is the DIRECT CAUSE of the most heinous, widespread, and longest lasting animal abuse in the history of humanity.

Woodsman, Corvallis, MT
Posted: 11/11/2012 7:28:22 PM
We need the government to fund a low cost/no cost clinic especially for cats as we are overrun with them. This article was written in 2010 and the cost is still too high. L.a. offers $5.00 for every abandoned or feral cat brought in for spay/neuter and we need to do the same. We do not have to offer the $5.00 but we need a free clinic for spay and neuter. It is in the best interest of the community to do this and we need it in Turlock, Ca. The cats are everywhere being abandoned and we need it now. It is now 2012 and if you drive around our town at night you will see numerous abandoned cats in parking lots, on the streets and all over. I cannot believe the vets in this town would be so against a good thing like (to block a no cost clinic) How horrid to keep euthanizing when we could have a no cost clinic that would be the humane alternative instead of euthanizing. There are horrible stories going on that shelters do not even bother to euthanize before cremating. What kind of people work at these clinics where they murder these precious animals when they could be fixed on the catch and release program?? I pray that it is not true but I know of two shelters that do not wait the appropriate time before euthanizing, it was on the news just this year. Vets are supposed to be dedicated to saving animals yet they are the ones that protest a no cost clinic. This is a shame.
Judy, Turlock, CA
Posted: 8/28/2012 7:06:31 PM
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