Members of the Idaho Veterinary Medical Association held their annual meeting last week in Post Falls. During the meeting, veterinarians voted on whether or not to back a campaign to create a law that would prohibit nonprofit animal welfare groups from providing veterinary care to pets of people who are not low-income.
Ninety-three percent of the veterinarians at the conference voted in favor, according to a press release from the group. No information was provided on how many people participated, though organizers expected 80 to 90 veterinarians at the conference.
The IVMA issued this statement:
"The federal government (IRS) bestows the designation, 'non-profit,' upon organizations which file an application describing their proposed charitable work. Thereafter, they are allowed to secure grants and donations which arrive as tax-free gifts. In addition, these organizations do not pay any property taxes.
"This issue is not about depriving shelter or stray animals housing and care. In fact, it is really about making sure our non-profit animal groups don't drift away from their primary missions.
"For non-profit animal groups, the areas of charitable focus includes the care and housing of shelter animals, pet adoptions, low-cost spaying and neutering for the general public, and providing low-income individuals with veterinary care.
"The IVMA executive board and the membership feel that the special privileges afforded to non-profit animal groups, through public tax subsidies, exist for very valid reasons but that there are constraints on the areas in which they operate. We all desperately need the non-profit animal groups to remain focused on what they do best. This is why these groups were created and why the public subsidizes them. We support, and have always supported their charitable missions."
The talk of legislation came after the Idaho Humane Society received approval from the city of Boise to build a new, larger and centrally located shelter at 8506 W. Overland Road, west of Wal-Mart. The group's existing shelter is on the far edge of town, southwest of the airport.
Veterinarians are concerned about the nonprofit shelter's planned 10,000-square-foot hospital, which is four times the size of its current hospital. Four clinics are within a mile of the Overland Road site.
Dr. Robert Pierce, president of the IVMA board, said veterinarians in the Treasure Valley aren't just concerned about losing some business. Some are concerned about going out of business, he said.
The Idaho Veterinary Medical Association polled its membership on the issue late last year. The required 80 percent participation needed to take action was not met.
The association's leaders then set up another vote at the group's annual meeting last week.