To the Editor:

I wanted to reply to Ruth Pearl’s letter concerning small animal veterinary care.

I am a veterinarian and have been in equine practice for 40-plus years. So in some ways I’m one of the bad guys, but where the care of my dogs and cats is concerned, I too am a consumer.

Veterinarians fund their own education. That education requires four years of preprofessional course work and another four in vet school.

Those eight years are very often followed by a year of internship, which frequently precedes four or five years of residency training.

Most newly minted DVMs often come out of school with high five-figure student loan debts.

Veterinarians, unlike physicians, who do the most technical part of their work in well-equipped and professionally staffed public buildings, purchase and maintain their own real estate, pay their staff members’ salaries and benefits, and purchase their own equipment.

They pay for a variety of different types of insurance. They pay for the heat, electricity, telephone and internet in their offices.

They are mandated to attend continuing education courses, for which they pay.

They privately keep their own libraries current, pay for a variety of professional journals, and support a number of veterinary organizations.

Pet ownership is not a right. Having an animal requires knowledge, responsibility and effort.

You can certainly empathize for the animal’s plight, but it’s hard to have sympathy for the lady who let her dog’s leg get so infected that it required veterinary care, when with basic grooming the whole thing could probably have been avoided.

Dogs that are not kept in fenced yards that suffer injury and cats that run free and contract infectious diseases or fight and get abscesses certainly require care, but the premise that a self-employed professional owes a total stranger a deep discount or free care seems wrong to me.

As far as equipment ownership goes, if you think defending your bill for the appropriate use of some type of advanced technology is hard, then try explaining why you didn’t have it available for someone’s pet that had a poor result when that technology might have made a difference.

William M. Bradley, DVM