Idaho VMA, humane society agree on means testing for nonprofit veterinary clients


Groups cooperate to reach deal that forestalls legislative showdown.

After two years of negotiations with the Idaho Veterinary Medical Association (IVMA), the Idaho Humane Society has agreed to start means-testing pet owners who seek out low-cost veterinary medical and surgical services through the humane society's facilities.

The agreement means the IVMA won't offer proposed legislation that would have limited nonprofit animal groups to provide medical and surgical services to low-income clients. The arrangement doesn't affect veterinary care offered within the shelter, the shelter adoption process or spay and neuter services, according to a release from the IVMA.

Pet owners seeking orthopedic services, wellness care, physical exams, preventive dentistry and vaccinations will have to fall below 75 percent of the median income in their county, according to the agreement. There are exceptions for emergencies and referrals.

Jeff Rosenthal, DVM, the Idaho Humane Society's chief executive officer, tells dvm360 that others in the veterinary community will receive certain cases.

“The agreement was probably the only one that the Idaho Humane Society could make in this situation,” he says. “We'll continue to see anyone of any income group that needs help with an injury or illness of any kind, but we'll income-test those who come to us for routine vaccinations and wellness care or for prophylactic dentistry.”

The Idaho Humane Society has operated a full-service veterinary clinic in Boise since 1984, when only five other practices were in the phone book, Rosenthal says. The IVMA launched its effort to limit the humane society's clientele after the nonprofit announced a plan to build a new, larger veterinary hospital near other practices, Rosenthal says.

Robert Pierce, DVM, IVMA board chairman, says Idaho residents are best served when nonprofits focus on low-income clients. “We are extremely pleased we have been able to come to an agreement,” he says in an association release. In explaining the agreement to his 600-plus statewide membership of veterinarians, Pierce said the state needs nonprofit animal groups to stay focused on helping low-income families, as mandated by their charity charters, rather than duplicating services for the public at large.

“Nonprofit animal groups are allowed very generous tax advantages and for excellent reasons: they spay and neuter pets for the general public, take care of strays and shelter animals, and help those lower-income families who cannot easily afford veterinary care,” Pierce says. “We not only applaud their efforts, but we desperately need them to continue this mission. This agreement sets an important framework and precedent for the future all across our state.”

Pierce concludes, “Neither the IVMA nor the [Idaho Humane Society] wants to fracture the long-term relationship between tax-paying veterinary businesses and nonprofit animal groups. This agreement clearly shows the dedication of both sides to define and recognize that we operate in two different arenas with two different areas of focus-and that we need each other.”

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