Veterinary Practices and Nonprofits: Why and How to Work Together

September 11, 2018

Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH, director of the Program for Pet Health Equity at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work, says the working relationships between the for-profit veterinary industry and nonprofit organizations need to be strengthened.

Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH, director of the Program for Pet Health Equity at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work, says the working relationships between the for-profit veterinary industry and nonprofit organizations need to be strengthened.

“The level of collaboration that's really needed now is better working relationships between the for-profit veterinary medicine industry and nonprofit organizations, which are largely attached to animal welfare organizations in one way or another. And I will say I am not I'm not satisfied that the relationship works the way it needs to. Meaning, too often there's a tension there coming out of a competitive spirit maybe. To put it another way, for-profit veterinary practices are largely small businesses, and they don't have so much bandwidth and latitude to remain financially healthy. And so, out of that reality comes concern that unfair competition that may derive from the nonprofit world threatens their livelihood. It's a logical concern, but the truth of the matter is the nonprofits are filling in some important gaps in services, because the for-profit industry has this bottom line that in many ways explains the cost of care, and the cost of care becomes the largest barrier. So, we need the nonprofit's, no doubt, and I think that it would it would be good if most people understand that they're fulfilling an important role, but what we would like to see is more of a for-profit veterinary practice participate in reaching underserved communities. My belief is many veterinarians in the for-profit world want to do that, but we've got to incentivize that process. We have to structure processes such that a for-profit small business that wants to help can help, and that starts with saying not saying to them give away your services. You know, we want you to do these things for free. No, we have to be respectful of their reality. So, we're determined to find ways to pull the for-profit veterinary medicine industry into the effort of reaching in new ways underserved families, and I think we'll be successful in doing that.”