Letters [Dec. 1992]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1992:

Who Pays for FoA Spay/Neuter?
In your October and November
issues, you mentioned that Friends of
Animals has underwritten lowcost spaying
and neutering. As one of the veterinarians
whose practice participates in the FoA pro-
gram, I can tell you that the people who
“underwrite” this program are the veterinar-
ians who accept the imposed rate for the
surgery. FoA collects the money, issues
the certificates, and keeps $9 of the total
fee for this service. For example, they col-
lect $39 for a cat spay, then pay us $30.
Our regular rate is $51, so we underwrite
the discount by accepting $21 less for the
surgery. At one time FoA endeavored to
force participating veterinarians to include
DHL, parvo, and psuedoleukemia vaccina-
tions at no additional charge, but backed
off this demand when, I suspect, partici-
pating veterinarians fled the program.
––Joanne V. Baldwin, DVM,
Richmond, Virginia

We––and our colleagues at
Friends of Animals––acknowledge the con
siderable contribution of participating vet
erinarians to the success of the Friends of
Animals spay/neuter program, the first and
oldest lowcost spay/neuter campaign in the
United States. Your complaints are often
voiced, and are one reason why many vet
erinarians prefer to work with Spay U.S.A.
or local shelters, who merely set a
spay/neuter rate and do not collect an
administrative fee. However, Spay U.S.A.
does require heavy subsidies from other
sources; promoting such campaigns and
maintaining a hotline to handle response is
quite expensive. The Friends of Animals
administrative fee falls far short of covering
their full cost. In 1991, FoA collected
$1,918,491 from the sale of spay/neuter cer
tificates, but the program cost the organiza
tion $2,180,257 (including $1,657,204 in
payments to veterinarians), for a net loss of
We did recently take your com
plaints to FoA president Priscilla Feral.
She explained that the fee structure is set at
the best balance FoA can find of the mini
mum level veterinarians need to cover surgi
cal costs, the minimum level FoA needs to
cover costs, and the maximum amount peo
ple who aren’t willing or able to pay full
price for spay/neuter surgery can be con
vinced to pay. “We realize,” Feral told
ANIMAL PEOPLE, “that our program
may not be good for every veterinarian,
especially those who have established prac
tices. Our experience is that it is most
attractive to young veterinarians who are
just starting a practice, who can use partici
pation in the FoA program as a loss-leader
to attract new clients, who are typically
bringing in young animals, and can be con
vinced to become clients for the length of the
animals’ lives. It’s good for building busi
ness. It isn’t necessarily good for veterinari
ans who don’t need more business.”
With that much understood, the
FoA share of the cost of a spay/neuter cer
tificate and the amount veterinarians dis
count are both well within the norms for
other businesses. For instance, in your
case you’re discounting your services nearly
40%, and FoA is getting a 25% cut of the
income. You and FoA are providing your
respective services for a combined value of
$60, of which you get $30: 50%. Suppose
we sold ANIMAL PEOPLE on consign
ment at your local newsstand. The news
stand would take a standard 40% cut,
maybe more, on top of which we’d have our
other promotional expenses.
Unfortunately, as one of our own
veterinarians warned us just last spring,
some veterinarians (a minority, fortunately)
have tried to offset their spay/neuter dis
counts all at once by jacking up the price of
shots. The FoA attempt to have shots
included in the price of spay/neuter was pri
marily an attempt to sidestep that practice,
which threatened the reputation of both the
spay/neuter program and all participating
vets. As you note, it wasn’t well-received.
It’s a “gotta have” for anyone in animal wel-
fare work. I, personally, was attracted to
Kim for her loving work with homeless
cats. The Oswego County Animal Welfare
League and I love them all. We can’t save
them all, but our record of spay/neuter and
placement is one I’m proud of, so we feel a
kinship with others of like mind.
––Juanita Grady, President, OCAWL,
Oswego, New York
Vigils weren’t shelter-bashing
I was very upset after reading
your article, “Shelter bashing wasn’t
planned,” about Homeless Animals Day
candlelight vigils (October 1992).
I have volunteered for animal
shelters and lowcost spay/neuter organiza-
tions for 20 years. I am also an animal
rights activist and every fellow activist I
have met cares very much about compan-
ion animal overpopulation.
As a board member of the Valley
Oak SPCA in Visalia, California, I
helped plan a local vigil. Our turnout was
three times what we had anticipated.
ISAR and nearly 300 organizations
worked very hard to make the candlelight
vigils worthwhile events.
I know for a fact that the vast
majority of candlelight vigils were spon-
sored by shelters, spay/neuter, and other
humane organizations.
––Lanie Wagenberg,
Visalia, California
We’re pleased to hear of the suc
cess of your vigil. On the other hand, a
vigil leader in Lexington, Kentucky, got
involved when the local humane society
euthanized a cat she’d surrendered on
account he had fleas. We pointed out that
shelter bashing wasn’t intended by
ISAR––but a lot of it happened anyway.
Regarding the candlelight vigils
and Homeless Animals Day, I have to say
that as an organizer of a vigil I felt rather
schizophrenic. Our intent was certainly
not to shelter bash. However, we all alas
know of shelters that cause overpopula-
tion. I speak about shelters that do not
neuter before adoption, knowing that
close to half of their adoptees never get
neutered and even though they may own
their own lowcost clinics; I speak about
shelters that do no screening whatsoever;
and I speak about shelters that knowingly
adopt to bad homes if the price is right.
––Petra E. Murray, New Jersey Pet
Overpopulation Solutions, Howell, N.J.
In our observation, the majority
of the shelters you speak of arel munici
pally operated, and are handcuffed by
shortsighted bylaws, which sacrifice ani
mal well-being to cutting costs––and end
up costing more anyhow because of the
increased number of strays in their com
Pet food
I’m hoping that ANIMAL
PEOPLE can help resolve some of the
problems that we are presently part of. For
starters, those of us who have pets are feed-
ing them body parts of other animals,
preservatives, and other undesirable ingre-
dients, and we’re subsidizing the exploitive
pet food industry. The so-called health pet
foods are not much better.
If we are to be consistent with our
objectives, and provide better humane
nutrition for our pets, we need guidance in
home preparation alternatives and/or com-
mercial pet food that is as cruelty-free,
healthful, and moderately priced as possi-
––Jean Lauren, Philadelphia,
edges and intends to address the need for
pet guardians to become more aware of
nutrition (and the activities of some pet food
manufacturers.) However, in our view the
most important objective when it comes to
pet food is the health and well-being of the
pet, not the philosophical consistency of the
guardian. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it,
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of
little minds, adored by little statesmen and
philosophers and divines,” who drive you
and us nuts by demanding it (whatever they
think it is.) The fact is, cats evolved as car
nivores for millions of years before we
showed up; dogs evolved as offal-eating
scavengers; and attempting to change their
nature to suit our own preferences is doing
them no service.
Our policy on pet food advertising
is that unless the manufacturer is directly
and deliberately involved in some activity
significantly more objectionable than ren
dering slaughterhouse waste from animals
who (lamentably) were going to be slaugh
tered anyway for human consumption, we’ll
accept it. (We wouldn’t accept an ad from
Ralston-Purina or Wayne, who sponsor
raccoon-hunting competitions.) We’ll do
our best to present the full range of practi
cable alternatives, as they are known to us,
and leave it to readers to make their choic
Posting land
Our neighbors have joined us in
barring any shooting, hunting, or fishing,
so among us we now have almost 300 acres
where birds and beasts are protected. It is
posted, but hunters have already set up
blinds on our land––which we have taken
down. My deacon was threatened when he
told hunters to remove themselves and their
guns from church property.
Are we the only church to hold
state and federal permits to rehabilitate
birds, and who serve only vegetarian food?
I hope not!
May God bless you for your stew-
ardship of those who cannot speak for them-
––Rev. J.A. Lefevre
St. John’s Retreat Center
P.O. Box 930
Montgomery, TX 77356
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