Animal shelter bill needs careful vetting
Veterinarians and animal shelters agree on the most important thing — the importance of caring for animals.
But the two like-minded groups are finding themselves at odds with each other over the business end of their calling.
Veterinarians say animal shelters are taking away their patients and should be reined in.
Animal shelters say they are doing basic services for stray and abandoned animals or for those owned by people who can’t afford to take them to veterinarians.
State Rep. David Hiott, R-Pickens, has filed a bill that would, among other things, require animal shelters to use licensed veterinarians, limit mobile animal clinics and provide sterilization, microchip and vaccinations only to low-income households. A similar bill has been filed by Danny Verdin, R-Laurens, in the S.C. Senate.
It is vitally important that well-intentioned legislation not inadvertently harm animal welfare. So it is encouraging that vets and shelter groups are trying to strike some compromises that will benefit both those with two legs and those with four.
But there are sticky issues. Some rescue clinics receive grants that include public money enabling them to offer low-cost services. And some people who use those services would otherwise take their pets to veterinarians (who, without getting public money, charge significantly more).
But limiting those low-cost services to households with less than 80 percent of the median family income (adjusted for household size and location) produces problems, too.
Plenty in the middle class took on pets when they could afford them, but their budgets are strained by college tuitions and lost or diminished wages.
It is better for animals to be vaccinated, microchipped and sterilized at low-cost shelters than for them to propagate and perhaps suffer from and spread disease.
Reporter Diane Knich wrote that veterinarians and shelters get along well in the Lowcountry. Most problems are in the Columbia area. Legislators must be careful to ensure that any changes in the law don’t do more harm than good.
Limiting the ability to care for a wide range of animals would be bad for them and for the communities they live in.