Low Cost and Easy To Use
What Do We Mean by Low Cost?
Have-A-Heart Spay and Neuter Clinic, which operated in New York City for over six years, charged clients between $35 and $55 to spay or neuter an animal, depending on its size. When the clinic raised its fees to $85 to $95, the number of clients plummeted.
There are other low-cost programs in the city, and the fees charged by all of them fall roughly into the $35 to $55 bracket. So there is unanimity on what counts as low cost.
But to really make a dent in the number of animals who get abandoned, we have to make spay and neuter accessible as well as affordable. Unfortunately, most of the city's current low-cost programs are difficult to use or are restricted to people on public assistance.
Those are serious drawbacks for the working poor. Our goal is to remove those barriers so New Yorkers with few resources will have an easier time being responsible guardians of their animals. This inexpensive assistance early on will keep animals out of the city's shelters, lower the number of animals euthanized and save the city money.
Animal Friendly NYC's Clinic Initiative
AFNYC believes the best way to provide that help is through city-funded, standing clinics that are readily accessible to low-income New Yorkers in every borough. Clinics have several advantages.
- They would be a known resource in the community. Once the clinics are established and publicized, pet owners would know where to take their pet for low-cost surgery. Clinics would encourage stability and responsibility.
- People who abandon their animals because they can't afford to spay or neuter them also often lack other resources, such as time and access to the internet or other sources to look for low-cost services.
- Clinics are the simplest and most cost-effective way to deliver services. Many programs issue low-cost certificates that individuals use with participating veterinarians. That requires an administrative agency to both issue certificates and reimburse doctors. In addition to those costs, reimbursement to private veterinarians runs higher than the cost to deliver the same service at a clinic.
The Have-A-Heart clinic, which handled about 6,700 animals a year, had seven full-time employees and four part-time vets. Owners made appointments with the clinic and paid the clinic. There was no flow of paperwork or approvals from an administering agency to client or to veterinarian.
What's Available Now?
Right now the city has a patchwork of low-cost spay and neuter programs. All of them together don't provide even half the number of low-cost surgeries experts say the city needs.
And some score low on the accessibility scale. For example:
- The ASPCA does about 7,300 low-cost surgeries a year for low-income New Yorkers. It has two mobile clinics that go to low-income neighborhoods, but the schedules aren't regular, and that makes it difficult for pet owners to use the clinics when they need them, as opposed to when the clinics are in the neighborhood.
Also, the mobile clinics don't take appointments, and the ASPCA warns pet owners to expect a two-hour wait, outdoors, before their pet gets booked in. That's a huge barrier for busy working people.
- The Humane Society of New York provides spay and neuter at low fees, but it also requires that a surgery be pre-paid by credit card before an appointment is made. While the intent may not be to discourage low-income New Yorkers from using the Society's services, that certainly would be the effect.
- Maddie's Fund, which issues low-cost certificates that owners then use with participating veterinarians, is restricted to people on Medicaid. Though the certificate fee is small - $10 - participating vets charge extra for exams and required vaccinations, which can add $55 to $119 to the cost of surgery.
Two other programs - Friends of Animals' Spay and Neuter Program and Muffin's Pet Connection - use certificates and don't require proof of need.
All these programs are necessary. All serve a very needy market. Even with city clinics, they would still be crucial to bringing an end to routine euthanasia of dogs and cats. City clinics would augment them, not replace them.