Complaint leads to clinic cancellation

11/16/2013

State determines that spay/neuter clinic needs license, as well as inspection.

State determines that spay/neuter clinic needs license, as well as inspection.

BY SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Plans to bring back a highly popular mobile pet spay and neuter outreach clinic to Garden City hit a snag last week after the state veterinary board said the clinic needed a license and an inspection.

Finney County Humane Society sponsored the Spay Today Mobile Outreach clinic the first weekend of November to bring a low-cost, mobile spay and neuter clinic to town. The outreach clinic is operated by Longmont, Colo.-based veterinarian Dr. Robert Foglia and practice manager Pam Pierce.

Demand was high at the Garden City clinic. Even after treating more than 85 animals over three days, another 140 to 150 people interested in the low-cost service remained on a waiting list.

As a result, the clinic planned to return to Garden City this week following a clinic last weekend in Liberal.

But after receiving a complaint from a local veterinarian, who has not been named, the Kansas Board of Veterinary Examiners told the local Humane Society and the animal shelter that the clinic needed a $75 license and both the truck and the staging area where animals recovered needed to be inspected.

Those issues were being addressed, according to Teri Sutherlin, Finney County Humane Society president, but because the shelter got dragged into the complaint, things got a little more complicated.

No medical procedures were being done inside the shelter. The shelter's garage area was being used as a post-surgery recovery area. But the veterinary board indicated the use of the garage might be construed as a medical use, which also would require an inspection.

According to Sutherlin, the city — through Capt. Michael Reagle — expressed concern that if the city-run shelter were seen as a medical facility, it might be seen as being in direct competition with local veterinarians, especially if the clinic operated frequently at the shelter. Reagle did not return calls and an email seeking comment.

"When we asked for use of the shelter as part of this, we really were talking about maybe using it a couple of times a year," Sutherlin said. "Well, when it turned out to be a two-week turnaround, they felt like that was too soon."

Because of the city's concerns, this week's clinic in Garden City was canceled. Liberal's clinic also was canceled until the clinic gets its license and inspection from the state.

Sutherlin said the Humane Society is working on locating another building or location to use for staging surgical recovery, which will be inspected by the state veterinary board.

Foglia said he has no problem complying with Kansas' requirements and blames himself for not learning of the rules sooner. Until a new facility is found and all the requirements are met, future clinic dates in Kansas are on hold, but Foglia said they will return at some point.

"We're keeping upbeat," Foglia said. "We know there's plenty of need for our services in Kansas. Eastern Kansas has some programs similar to ours; western Kansas does not. Geographically, we're in a good position to come and help."

Foglia said the Spay Today trailer is a state-of-the-art surgical facility that uses standard anesthetics and maintains a standard of care available at any major surgical facility.

"We don't cut corners. We're doing everything we would do at any other facility. The state just wants to maintain a certain level of professionalism, and there's no problem with that. We fully intend to be compliant with any state regulations," he said.

Danna Jones, a longtime Humane Society volunteer, was disappointed someone would complain about a program so beneficial to addressing pet overpopulation issues and over time might cut down on animal intakes at the shelter. Jones spends a lot of time lining up transfers of animals from the shelter to rescue organizations in an effort to reduce the number of pets that are euthanized.

"Here we found a viable solution that benefits every sector. I consider it a slap in the face," Jones said. "We've got to change our focus from rescue to prevention. It's just mind boggling that nobody can see the big picture."

The veterinarian who complained has not being identified.

Dr. Eric Tuller, a veterinarian with Garden City Veterinary Clinic and the veterinarian the city contracts with to provide services at the animal shelter and at Lee Richardson Zoo, believes he knows who made the initial complaint but declined to identify that person.

When asked if he had an issue with the outreach clinic himself, Tuller said he has some concerns but didn't speak out against it to the state.

"I don't agree with the low-cost spay and neuter because I worry about the quality of service, but I didn't do anything to get it shut down," Tuller said.

Tuller agrees Garden City has some problems with pet overpopulation and pets running loose, and agrees taking steps to reduce those numbers is a good goal. But in his opinion, the first step in controlling the population lies with pet owners and enforcement of leash laws.

"A lot of dogs are allowed to run loose," he said. "I think that the biggest problem is people not keeping their pets at home. You can have an intact animal that won't add to the pet population if you keep it at home, but if you turn it out the front door it will get pregnant."

When asked how much spaying/neutering costs, Tuller said the cost varies clinic to clinic but in general it could be anywhere between $125 to $150. Because of Spay Today's volume, they are able to alter cats and dogs for between $20 and $40.

Currently, Tuller doesn't offer discounted or lower price services for low-income pet owners but he has been considering some. He said he may offer a coupon or a month where discounts are available, but those ideas haven't been finalized yet.

Foglia said his intent has never been to infringe on local vets' businesses. If anything, Foglia believes local veterinarians will see an increase in business from new customers who haven't been getting any veterinary care at all.

The vast majority of pets Spay Today sees don't have a rabies vaccination, an indicator the owners aren't getting them regular veterinary care, Foglia said. Spay Today requires an animal to be current on rabies vaccinations and will provide one as part of the program before altering an animal.

"We encourage, through educating clients, that they get a relationship with a local veterinarian," Foglia said. "It's great we're able to help out and get spays and neuters done, but we definitely encourage a relationship with local veterinarians because that's a big part of pet care in general."

Sutherlin said the Humane Society will get past the current hiccup and is optimistic about bringing the mobile clinic back. Still, she expressed frustration about the complaint.

"Why can't we all do what's right for our community? Why does it have to feel threatening to anyone when we should all be on the same page trying to control the pet population?" she said. "I can guarantee you the vets are not going to lose money over this. We're always going to be accessing local vets (between mobile clinic visits) to spay and neuter animals. It's not like we're going to stop giving them business — and we do good business with them."

comments powered by Disqus
I commented on a story, but my comments aren't showing up. Why?
We provide a community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day.
Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. We expect civil dialogue.
Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome.
Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum.

If you don't see your comment, perhaps you ...
... called someone an idiot, a racist, a moron, etc. Name-calling or profanity (to include veiled profanity) will not be tolerated.
... rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.
... included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.
... accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.
... made a comment in really poor taste.

MULTIMEDIA