Is Nonprofit Veterinary Medicine Eroding Private Practice?

A coalition of veterinarians will investigate whether people who can afford care from private practices are taking their pets to nonprofit clinics. It will also look into expanding access to care for those who need it.
Joe Hannan
Published: November 17, 2016
A group of veterinarians is looking to broaden access to care for pets that are currently without it and better understand the relationship between for-profit and nonprofit veterinary practice.
The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) reports in its December issue that the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition will work to better gauge the need for low- or no-cost care among pets and owners.
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A primary concern among veterinarians practicing privately, the report notes, is that some believe nonprofit groups are siphoning clients from private practice. As of right now, no data has been gathered on the subject, the report says. Michael Blackwell, DVM and MPH, chief veterinary officer for the Humane Society of the United States, would like to change that.
“Everybody has heard the story of veterinarians driving by a low-cost spay-neuter clinic and seeing their client’s car parked outside, the lady with the Mercedes,” Dr. Blackwell said in the JAVMA article. “Is it at a level where it’s eroding the financial wellbeing of practices? I don’t think so, but we’ll see. I haven’t seen private practices financially hurt because a nonprofit is trying to help those in need. But that’s something that hasn’t been objectively measured.”
In addition to better understanding the interaction between for-profit and nonprofit veterinary practice, the coalition’s goals can be summed up as follows:
  • Promote and expand access to veterinary care for pets that don’t have it.
  • Address legal and regulatory obstacles to nonprofit veterinary practice.
  • Foster a more harmonious relationship and collaboration between for-profit and nonprofit veterinary medicine.
  • Guide veterinarians on how they can boost access to care.
The coalition will begin its work by looking at what is currently working in the nonprofit community by studying “target populations and the type of services provided, in addition to exploring how humane care may be provided under economic hardship circumstances.” The coalition will present its research by July of next year, the report says.
The coalition is operating under the following principles: “All animals deserve veterinary care, many pets in the United States are not getting the veterinary care they need, and veterinarians should have the freedom to provide a spectrum of care to their patients.”

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