The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

October 9, 2012

UPDATED: Low-cost spay-neuter clinics say they pay taxes

— Officials from two nonprofit spay and neuter clinics serving Alabama are refuting a claim by the head of the Alabama State Veterinary Medical Examiners Board that the low-cost clinics do not pay taxes like private veterinarians.

Dr. Robert Pitman of Athens, president of the ASVME board, recently told The News Courier that — unlike private veterinarians — the state’s four low-cost, nonprofit, spay and neuter clinics do not have to pay taxes that help communities do things like repair roads and fund schools.

Jane Jattuso, treasurer for the North Alabama Spay and Neuter Clinic in Huntsville, and Mark Nelson, executive director of the Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic in Irondale, say Pitman’s remarks are simply not true. They say his comments are aimed at convincing residents and veterinarians that these clinics are unneeded, unsafe and pose an unfair advantage over private veterinarians.

Pitman and the ASVME board recently proposed two rule changes that could effectively shut down the clinics. The proposed rules:

• To prevent nonveterinarians from hiring or supervising veterinarians;

• To prevent nonvets — including nonprofit groups — from owning veterinary equipment.

The state’s four low-cost spay and neuter clinics are independently owned by four separate nonprofit groups. 

Clinic officials — as well as thousands of residents across Alabama in the past few weeks — have signed petitions opposing the rule changes. Some of them plan to attend a public hearing on the proposed rules at 9 a.m. Wednesday at 8 Commerce St., Suite 910, in Montgomery. If the board adopts the rule, opponents can request review by a legislative council, Jattuso said. That council could decide to approve, reject or alter the proposed rule. The rule would not go into effect until it went before the legislative body, she said.

Nelson said he fears the 100,000 to 200,000 animals put to death each year in the state “are getting lost in all of this.”

Alabama and Mississippi have the highest kill rates in the nation due to their burgeoning pet overpopulation.

In Limestone County and Athens some 2,628 cats and dogs were humanely killed in fiscal 2011. Pitman is paid $281,000 a year by the city of Athens and Limestone County to treat, find homes, or humanely kill these unwanted animals. 

The North Alabama clinic, together with the three other clinics in the state, have performed nearly 100,000 spay or neuter surgeries.

Fewer unwanted animals saves cities and counties the cost of having to dispose of them.

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