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Friday, July 3, 2009

You Can Only Do So Much

Last month I showed an x-ray of a puppy with a badly broken paw. Unfortunately, we're having difficulties with the client, and it's a tough situation. Here's another view behind the scenes of running a veterinary business.

When we first did the services, the bill was over $500. They didn't have that right away, so we worked out with them that they would pay half that day and the remaining half a week later. If they didn't pay the remaining balance they would be sent to our collections department. When the time came they didn't pay, even though we gave them several extra days. Another few weeks later the puppy came in for a recheck and the paw was swollen, the splint was broken, and the whole thing had slipped down a little. We needed to replace the splint, but she didn't have the money for it. I was going to remove the splint but send her home without anything else because she couldn't pay for it. She said that she would check and see if she could borrow the money from her mother, and would let us know. We kept the puppy, heard back from her a few hours later, and she said to go ahead and do it. Then when she picked up, she didn't have the money to pay for it. So she got sent to collections a second time! And she was informed that from that point forward she would not be able to receive any services unless she paid for them in advance. Most recently she called me on Wednesday saying that the paw was swollen. I again discussed repeating x-rays, removing the splint, and checking the foot; I also repeated that she would need to pay for any services in advance.

Today I had to stay home from work and have another doctor cover for me because my daughter was running a fever and my wife was out of town helping with a church youth camp. This same person came in today, expecting to see me, and was upset when I wasn't there even though my receptionist explained why I was out. The office called me about this, and wanted to double-check with what I had told her about payment. The foot was very swollen and the dog needed treatment for it. Honestly, this dog needed surgery about a month ago. I'm not sure what ended up happening, but I'll find out tomorrow.

Situations like this are pretty tough. I want to be able to help this dog, but I can't do full treatment for free. The client has already defaulted on almost $500 worth of services that she had agreed to, and on one occasion deliberately deceived me. I know that she is trying to help her dog, but she's going about it the wrong way by lying to us and basically performing fraud. The splint isn't helping him, he needs surgery, and he won't get better because he's not getting proper care. I know the owner can't afford it, and that's not really her fault (though it illustrates a point I've often made about setting aside money for your pets). But as a businessperson, I can't do such extensive and expensive services for free. And the fact that she has knowingly reneged on her agreements makes us less like to want to help.

In the end, the pet is the one who suffers. And really I can only do so much. I feel bad for the puppy, but I don't feel guilty. The owner is ultimately responsible for what happens and any decisions.


  1. At our clinic (where I am a tech), we try to work with clients much as you have tried to do. In addition we have a fund (initially established by a generous client) that can be drawn upon for cases where there is an animal in need of care that the owner is unable to pay the full amount. The fund is replenished by donations from clients and members of the community that are aware of the clinic's efforts to help in such situations. The ground rules (guidelines really) for tapping into the fund are that the animal has a good chance of a good outcome and the owners appear to be good caring folks who are just in a financial bind. The offer of tapping the fund is made when the case "feels" like a suitable one. The other option we offer in some cases is for the owner to sign the animal over to the clinic so that the treatment can be provided and then the animal will be offered for adoption to a suitable home.

  2. I feel for you and the client. She probably has no money but wants to help her dog. Because if she really didnt care she wouldnt be bringing the dog back. And she probably has been to collections before. Do you buy food or pay for a dogs leg? 250.00 might as well be a million dollars for her. Im glad Im not in your shoes. Life is very hard sometimes. Hope your daughter feels better. Diana

  3. that stuff sucks. it's so frustrating and the pet is the one who suffers. there is no good answer other than-pets cost money, people need to be prepared or don't get a pet. The worst is HBCs with no money. It's totally preventable.


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