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Quality reassurance

Categories: ALL THE NEWS , Animal Welfare
Public seem to think that welfare organisations, especially those with veterinary hospitals, are there to provide cheap services

Many members of the public seem to think that welfare organisations, especially those with veterinary hospitals, are there to provide cheap services using cheap materials and expired drugs. They also seem to think that our veterinarians aren’t real veterinary doctors, our staff are volunteers and the care of animals is questionable when with us. They also seem to think that we are obliged to help them, mostly for free and whenever they walk through our doors.

So, let’s dispel some myths.

Myth: We provide cheap services and use expired drugs.
Fact: By law we may not sell expired drugs. All our drugs are the same as those used in private veterinary practices. Even with a discount from the wholesalers, expensive drugs are still expensive. Our services are heavily subsidised by the organisation and clients complete an almoning form (a means test) to show that they cannot afford private veterinary care. They have to provide proof of their income, ID document copies and proof of residency in order to be seen. We offer primary health care and are fortunate to be able to do some more complicated surgeries like bone pinnings, but true specialist work like cataract surgery or spinal surgery, is not welfare work.

Myth: Our vets aren’t real veterinary doctors.
Fact: This is so funny despite being so insulting, as the clients often tell our veterinarians that the real doctors at practice ABC said something else when our veterinarian is busy examining their animals! All our veterinarians are fully qualified and registered with the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC). If they weren’t, they would be working illegally. In addition, our qualified and registered veterinary nurses are also all registered with the SAVC. We have taken it a step further and trained 3 inspectors, 2 kennel office staff and 4 hospital staff to be Animal Welfare Assistants. They all were examined and successfully authorised and registered with the SAVC.

Myth: Our staff are volunteers.
Fact: All our staff are permanently employed and receive salaries. Our jobs are full time with work being done 7days a week. While we are an animal welfare organisation, we still have to run along business principles and comply with the same laws. Volunteers would never be able to accomplish this on a regular basis, so our volunteers rather play a role in socialising with the animals in kennels to make them homeable instead.

Myth: The care of animals when with us is questionable.
Fact: The standards maintained in our veterinary hospital are higher than in many private veterinary practices. Patient care and compassion are two important aspects of our hospital. We do not compromise any patient’s care because the owner doesn’t have a lot of money. But both our veterinarians and clients also have to be reasonable about certain aspects of a pet’s care and when it becomes too costly, with little hope of the pet recovering, it is better to euthanase the pet and end their suffering, while not wasting either parties’ money.

Myth: We are obliged to help the public, mostly for free, whenever they walk through our doors.
Fact: While we do not run an appointment system in hospital, we do have set consulting hours to see the publics’ animals. This allows us time in between to check our hospitalised patients and perform any procedures or surgeries required. Sadly, we are battling to replace a veterinarian and veterinary nurse who left in February and we have had to scale back some of the consulting hours and surgeries booked in.

It must also be remembered that our staff have families, need to go grocery shopping, travel long distances as everyone else does and they would like to go home on time too. Every pet owner has taken on a responsibility and with this is their pet’s healthcare. So, pet owners need to respect our consulting hours and plan accordingly. A true emergency will be attended to regardless. However, the problem comes in when animals are allowed to weaken to the point that they are in an emergency state, and then the owners expect us to pull out all the stops and immediately attend to them. We will see the patient, but the owners then need to understand their bill will be higher as the animal needs more intensive treatment now, than had it been brought in sick on day one.

As we offer a service and charge for this, SARS has informed us that we need to add vat as well. We sadly cannot offer free services as we have so few donations and need to buy in drugs and consumables. Our fundraising may cover some of our supplier’s costs but the bulk goes towards looking after the average 250 animals in our care in the kennels and cattery.

In conclusion:
Our staff undergo different training throughout the year based on their needs as well as that of the organisation. Last year staff underwent animal behaviour and handling training, hygiene and disinfection training, animal disease training, and some attended a social media workshop.

While we are human and make mistakes, rather complain directly to me so that I can investigate and see where we went wrong and how to rectify the mistake or retrain the staff. Going to social media to rant and rave may make you feel better in the short term but doesn’t solve the problem and does immense reputational damage which is often one sided.

We can assure you that we do not compromise on the quality and care we provide to the animals in our care.

Sr. Cindy-Lee Price (DVN)
General Manager – AACL Johannesburg

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