7 steps to a better relationship between veterinarians and rescue groups


Dr. Jeff Werber, owner of the Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles, California, and a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member, has worked with rescue groups for many years. The key, he says, is to make sure the relationships benefit both sides. Here are the things he says are most important to keep in mind when getting started working with a rescue or shelter group:

> Set ground rules. Start off with a clear expectation of what's permitted. This way, both sides feel that the agreement is fair, and neither will feel that they've been taken advantage of.

> Settle up each month. Don't carry balances from month to month.

> Stick by your discounts. If your provide discounts, don't deviate.

> Schedule time for rescues. If you don't want them to interrupt scheduled appointments with non-emergency walk-ins, say so.

> Be consistent. Set the rules and stick by them. It can get sticky when the rules suddenly change three months later.

> Go in with the right attitude. Nonprofit groups are passionate about the care they provide, be it a rescue group for a certain breed or a general shelter. Sometimes this passion leads to clashes with the veterinarians who are trying to help them out.

“Veterinarians who are willing to work with shelters and rescues have the upper hand right now [because] some have been burned in the past and won't form a relationships with a new group,” Dr. Werber says. “Going in with a positive but cautious attitude can help mitigate these conflicts.”

> Make sure the relationship benefits both parties. Dr. Werber's clinic agrees to give a discount of 20 to 25 percent to rescue group patients. He breaks even, or makes a small profit, but the real benefit is the source of new patients. The rescue groups, in return for the discounted services, refer their adopters to Century Veterinary Group as new patients.

While Dr. Werber works with several groups at one time, he says he sees roughly 30 to 40 new clients per month just from the rescue groups.

“Don't be afraid to ask [rescue groups] for [social media] coverage if you're helping them out,” he says. “Use it as a way to enhance your image in the community.” 

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