Evolving relations in Colorado

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The Colorado VMA recently created a task force to foster collaboration between private practitioners and animal welfare organizations. The chair of the task force works at a humane society that has expanded the range of veterinary services it offers to the public.

Ralph Johnson, Colorado VMA executive director, said the state has a history of collaboration between private practitioners and animal welfare organizations.

Dr. Vail performs a dental procedure
Dr. Jenelle Vail of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley performs a dental procedure at the organization’s clinic, which provides a full range of services to the public. (Courtesy of Humane Society of Boulder Valley)

“We’ve come to see that an adversarial relationship benefits no one, that working together benefits all, and that what we really need to forge is a business relationship,” Johnson said.

Shelters are the key stream of new companion animals into the community in Colorado, Johnson said. He said many shelters and private practitioners in the state already are working together to increase adoptions and subsequent veterinary care.

Recently, Johnson has been hearing more from private practitioners who fear losing business to animal welfare organizations that offer veterinary services to the public. He said the Colorado VMA believes such organizations should conduct means testing to determine eligibility for services.

Johnson noted that PetAid Colorado, formerly the Colorado Veterinary Medical Foundation, runs a nonprofit animal hospital providing subsidized services for low-income clients. The clients must provide documentation of income, except for spay-and-neuter services.

Dr. Jenelle Vail of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, chair of the Colorado VMA task force, said her organization’s clinic provides a full range of full-price services. Low-income clients qualify for assistance, with documentation of income.

The clinic’s revenues help support the humane society, Dr. Vail said. The humane society reports the revenues to the Internal Revenue Service as unrelated business income, subject to income tax. Dr. Vail said the organization has a bit of an edge in being able to raise funds for veterinary equipment for use by both the clinic and shelter.

In the decade since the clinic opened, Dr. Vail said, veterinarians at the clinic and private practitioners in the community have developed good relations.

“We are a full-service veterinary clinic which tries to price services in the middle of other area clinics,” Dr. Vail said. “The shelter also has a list of all area veterinarians and encourages new adopters to use any clinic they prefer. We try very hard to send as many new adoptions as possible back to the veterinary community.”

Dr. Vail said the Colorado VMA task force is working on a playbook to help private practitioners and animal welfare organizations collaborate on initiatives to improve animal welfare.

“I know there is still lots of conflict out there,” Dr. Vail said. “Talking about things is the better way to go.”