TEXAS — The Animal Birth Control Clinic said House Bill 3806 is not moving out of the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee on Friday.
The clinic was told that this was the first time that people have acted on a proposed bill to make a powerful statement of opposition.
Jan Lancaster has been taking her 7-year-old cocker spaniel, Cooper, to the Animal Birth Control Clinic for several years.
"It's convenient, it's affordable," Lancaster said. "It helps because we have two pets. It's twice the expense, so it's nice to go somewhere where it's affordable. It doesn't put a financial strain on you."
But that affordability could soon become a thing of the past for people like Lancaster, if House Bill 3806 passes.
The proposed bill would prevent licensed veterinarians at low cost and nonprofit clinics from offering basic services to the general public.
Those services include deworming, nail trims, microchips, flea/tick control, heartworm tests and heartworm prevention. The bill would not affect spay/neuter procedures or vaccines.
Under the bill, clinics would only be allowed to provide those services to people who are poverty-stricken.
The bill states owners who receive the low-cost care would have to be enrolled in a state or federal program that provides aid to low-income families. Those programs include Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance to name a few.
"Not everybody is as fortunate as I am to be employed and it would put a hardship on the family to take money for their pet out of the family budget," Lancaster said. "I understand where it would hurt a lot of people."
Carrie Kuehl is the executive director of the Animal Birth Control Clinic. She said the bill will have a negative impact on the people they serve.
"We were really surprised to hear that it was being proposed. It doesn't make a lot of sense to us," Kuehl said. "To have the passion of what we do attacked with such a huge lack of understanding for the impact of the community feels pretty crummy."
Kuehl said about 25,000 people use their services each year, from students to senior citizens.
"People from all walks of life," Kuehl said. "Some who are really, terribly poor and they love their pet more than anything and people just like you and I, where things are a little thin from time to time."
Kuehl said without affordable services, some owners won't be able to give their animal the care it needs. At that point, they may have no choice but to surrender their pet to the nearest shelter.
"If their dog becomes heartworm positive, that becomes several thousand dollars to treat at a full-service clinic. Sometimes that's too overwhelming," Kuehl said. "Even though they love their pet very much, they're going to go and surrender it in tears because they can't afford its care."
The Humane Society of Central Texas already receives anywhere from 20 to 35 animals a day. Just this past March, it received 413 animals. In 2018, the shelter received 5,719 animals.
Lancaster said if the bill is passed, she may not be able to take Cooper to the clinic as often or she'll have to skip some of the services he usually gets.
She'd rather be able to afford whatever Cooper needs to stay happy and healthy.
"We just love him so much," Lancaster said. "He's not just a dog, he's part of the family. He's very special to us."
As of April 1, the bill was left pending in committee.
State Representative Charles "Doc" Anderson, a veterinarian who sits on the committee, said there needs to be some middle ground between the nonprofits and the full-service veterinary clinics.
"There are some outliers that do definitely abuse the nonprofit status and they have an advantage in fundraising and advertising and some tax issues, unfair competition to the full-service practices," Anderson said. "I think there should be some ground where we can work together. Both of them provide a service and both entities are needed for many critters out there."
To read up on House Bill 3806, click here.