Veterinarian association won't bankroll campaign for law to limit Boise shelter's hospital care

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comJanuary 19, 2014 

These kittens were cared for at the Idaho Humane Society hospital before they were put up for adoption.

STATESMAN ARCHIVE PHOTO/DARIN OSWALD

Idaho Veterinary Medical Association members were polled last month on whether they wanted the group support a campaign for a new state law would limit the kind of veterinary care offered by the Idaho Humane Society's hospital.

The group's bylaws required a vote of 80 percent of its members to take action. But only 50 percent of the group's 409 members voted. Of those who voted, a slim majority — 51.7 percent — were in favor of a new law, a spokeswoman for the group said.

Vicki Smith, the IVMA's executive director, said she was unsure if the private veterinarians would continue to pursue legislation without the backing of the group.

Private veterinarians supporting a new law have said the nonprofit Idaho Humane Society's hospital services should be restricted to serving only pet owners who qualify as low-income. But shelter officials have said the clinic needs full-paying customers to support its mission, including treating strays and relinquished animals. In a statement issued Friday, the Idaho Veterinary Medical Association said it wants to foster partnership between the Idaho Humane Society and private veterinarians. But it also said it does not endorse the shelter's hospital as it currently operates:

"We believe the current activities of IHS are not in the best interest of the pet-owning public and jeopardize the future of every privately owned veterinary practice in the state by establishing a precedent for non-profit veterinary organizations to compete directly with veterinary businesses that do pay taxes and who do not receive grants, donations, or inheritances. Inclusion of the general public into the daily operation of the IHS dilutes the low-income public's ability to access care." (Read the full statement in the link above).

In May, after the Idaho Humane Society announced plans to build a larger shelter on 8506 W. Overland Road in Boise, some expressed concern about the impact of the shelter's expanded hospital on private veterinary clinics in the area.

Opponents of the new shelter appealed the city Planning & Zoning Commission's approval of the project. But in June, the Boise City Council upheld the commission's decision.

In November, a group of veterinarians said it would pursue a new law to limit the Boise shelter's hospital services. Though other states have considered such legislation just one — Washington — has actually passed a law restricting the veterinary care provided to animals at nonprofit shelters across the state.

The Washington law is extremely restrictive, limiting animal welfare agencies and groups to performing only a few services — electronic identification, surgical sterilization, vaccinations and some emergency care — for pets in low-income households.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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