NEWMARKET, England — Military veterinary clinics around the world are scaling back the services they offer for privately owned pets in an effort to save money.
U.S. Army Public Health Command, which oversees veterinary treatment facilities at all military installations, temporarily suspended in mid-October almost all procedures involving anesthetics for privately owned animals at most of its approximately 150 locations, said Lt. Col. Matt Takara, the command's program manager for animal medicine.
Veterinary facilities will still perform emergency procedures for pets and will continue to operate on military animals, Takara said.
The suspension comes as a result of the command hiring more civilian personnel and needing to reduce overhead, Takara said.
Despite charging for surgeries, he said, the suspension will save the command money since the military charged less than the cost of the procedures. Takara also said the level of care the military provides for procedures made charging more impractical as military prices would not be competitive with civilian clinics prices.
Takara said they also have raised prices on other services: The cost of examinations increased $10 to $35, and the price of some items sold by the clinics rose slightly.
"While we strive to keep our prices as low as possible, we must generate enough revenue to cover our operating costs," Takara said. "These changes are occurring globally, but our goal is to increase access to care and provide more wellness and sick call appointments to our military families' pets."
When the procedures will resume is a question officials are putting off until they clear up a backlog of patients needing vaccines and examinations, Takara said.
"Being that is our primary public health mission, we needed to refocus and ensure that we can offer our customers reasonable wait time in order to get a routine vaccine or just an annual examination completed," he wrote.
Takara said they want customers to wait no longer than 14 days to have a pet seen for a wellness check.
The struggle to keep up with demand is not new for military veterinary treatment facilities. The official web pages for most military veterinary facilities states they have "limited manpower and resources" and potential customers should seek emergency pet care through private clinics.
Individual clinics have also reported difficulties seeing patients. The veterinary facility at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korea, in July had to change its hours because it had no civilian employees. The Fort Campbell, Ky., facility warned customers that the facility would be so busy hosting a July walk-in event that the clinic's phones would be turned off. The Spangdahlem, Germany, facility cautioned people in January to take urgent needs off-base since the clinic's appointment calendar for roughly the next two months was "sparse."